In June of 2011 I had the opportunity to take a once in a lifetime trip to Hawaii with my sister to visit a friend that we had grown up with. Our friend lives on one of the military bases on the island of Oahu and we stayed with her for the ten or so days we were there. During our visit my sister made a big deal about visiting some of the historic sights while I complained incessantly about it, which is actually very uncharacteristic for me; I usually love sightseeing and absorbing the culture and history of any place I visit, but for some reason all I wanted to do was lay on the beach in Waikiki and not move until it was time for our return flight.
Despite my desire to stay beach bound, we wound up at the Pearl Harbor exhibit, my sister and our friend dripping with enthusiasm and me dripping with the desire to leave. They went off on their own to explore the place, while I sat and moped about not being able to do what I want on vacation. Needless to say, I wasted a good chunk of my time bitching about the exhibit being “boring” and a “waste of my time.” In retrospect I was kind of being an asshole about the entire thing.
The one shining moment that turned everything around, however, was coming across something with an inscription upon it that put me in my place. If I remember correctly it was Eleanor Roosevelt’s wartime prayer which reads:
“Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way help me to remember somehow out there a man died for me today. As long as there be war I then must ask and answer: am I worth dying for?”
In an instant, all of my petty complaints and my disrespectful attitude evaporated and I felt lower than the dirt at my feet. At the time I refused to admit this to anyone, least of all my sister. I didn’t want her getting the idea that she was right so I played it off as if I was unmoved by what I had seen, while internally my mind was rolling the prayer over and over trying to absorb the true weight of it all.
In that one moment I came face to face with something that I could not deny: a question of my worth. Within minutes my thoughts grew exponentially and I became enveloped in the evaluation of who I am and what I am worth as an individual. There I was, complaining about having to see one of the most historic sites in the world on a vacation in Hawaii of all places and I was too wrapped up in my own pettiness to realize the magnitude of what I was seeing and experiencing.
On December 7, 1941 over 2400 people lost their lives and so many more since. In my lifetime alone thousands of people have died as a result of protecting the United States. War has taken countless lives and many of us barely take the time to truly appreciate those who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us: family, friends, and loved ones. We’re so wrapped up in our own problems that we ignore the value of those who serve this country; we ignore the value of being able to live our lives.
Not only do I want to take this moment to say Thank You to every man and woman who has served this country both past and present, but to ask of you (my readers) to do something that maybe up until this moment you had not: ask yourself if you’re worth dying for. This question itself is loaded on so many levels – with questions within it about what it means to be worth something and how a system of value varies from person to person – but at its core it remains the same for all people. Is your life something you are proud of? Is it something that is worth protecting? Is it something worth dying for? And I in turn must ask myself the same thing: is there value in every breath I take?
To this day, I am still met with the resounding question of my worth and the inability to provide a definitive answer to this question. In so many ways I feel as if my life is of great value to myself and those around me, but when I really stop to think about it I have to openly admit that it is nowhere near the value that it should be for the sacrifices that others have made for me. I could do better. We could all do better. Maybe it’s time we not only start trying a little bit harder, but taking the time to appreciate the men and women who make it possible for us to do so.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry
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