04 March 2015

Not to utter words

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  - John F. Kennedy

I posted this quote by JFK last week and have been ruminating on it ever since, querying myself, if you will. Do I live my gratitude? What do I do that expresses the words "thank you"? For what am I most thankful and I how do I express it in actions? There are multiple components to this for me. 

First are those things that bring me peace and joy - my children, my running and my friends - for which I share my daily life and which are woven into its rhythm. 

Second are those things about which I have ardor or which drive me - giving back to the community, especially military veterans, injustice against under-privileged children and the role of the US in foreign policy and international affairs. 

Third, but no less important, are those things I am doing to leave the world a better place - this makes me recall "Saving Private Ryan" where he hopes that he has lived a good life and that he honored the sacrifices others made to save him by his actions and his legacy. 

For the first category, I know I can make improvements - how much time I devote to the little things with my kids and how often I speak with my friends who are not close by or carve out the time to visit them. These are the people whom I consider my family, who have stood by me and defended me (even when I was wrong), cheered victories, shared sorrows and most importantly, who have held up the mirror so that I never lose sight of who I am, whether I am being amazing or an ass. 

As you know if you've been following along, I now run for the pure joy of it, for being able to put one foot in front of the other, and always feel grateful for being able to do so, regardless of how fast or how far.

For the second, they are the drivers behind why I wish to attend law school - to be able to fight the good fight, to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to elevate our nation internally so that she continues to shine brightly on the international stage and to ensure that our military veterans are seen, heard and understood as a vital component to what makes this nation strong. I have gratitude to this nation for the opportunities it has allowed me - not given me - but allowed me, and the best way I know how to say "thank you" is to keep working hard and give back in my own small way.

For the third, I am at a loss, I think. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to multiple doctors and nurses for saving my life and to the therapists who rehabbed me in the aftermath. I feel a particular debt to the pilots of the CH-46E "Pedro" crew, who airlifted me and, most crucially, the squadron's rescue doc and to GySgt R. "Smut" Smith, who resuscitated me manually during that flight when I failed. There is a backstory: Gy Smith and I deployed together twice and he taught me more than I could possibly explain about what it means to care for your Marines, to be a leader and to be a pilot that your crew trusts. And he saved my life along with the doc (something I didn't know until later). I didn't see him until almost six months later, at the funeral for another crew chief who was KIA in Afghanistan. We embraced and, true to form, he simply said, "It's good to see you, ma'am." I've thanked him many times, but I don't know that there is any way to express that type of gratitude except through making sure the life he saved is a worthy one.  I'm working on it. 

What are you doing to live your gratitude? 
Mediterranean Sea near Crete. (September 2008) 

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