By now, we should be experts in quiet.
Think about it. We’ve had weeks, even months of practice. Self-quarantine. Social distancing. Stay-at-home orders with every possible distraction removed (except Netflix). Surely by now, we’ve mastered the art of silent contemplation, gained a new appreciation for the inner life, and dedicated ourselves to a period of reflection and self-discovery …
You’re not buying it, are you?
Well, it was worth a shot.
In all honesty, the growing levels of COVID-19 restlessness haven’t really shocked me that much, and not just because of economic pressure and a rising tide of Amazon boxes that threatens to inundate all of suburbia. The fact of the matter is, we’re a loud country. An extrovert among nations. Folks who want to do instead of be, and preferably do it with friends at 100 decibels or more, especially when it comes time for the July 4 Symphony in the Key of High Explosives. (If you’re not part of the annual conflagration, by the way, our dog would like to thank you from the bottom of his eardrums.)
I know, there are plenty of exceptions (myself included). But by and large, we’re not a country that does real well with “sit still and wait.”
So there’s a real irony to the fact that our first restless steps beyond the house and the grocery store are coming just in time for Memorial Day.
A couple of years ago, I noted that Memorial Day is something of an oddity among the holidays, since it doesn’t ask you to do all that much. There’s no calls to put out acres of holiday lights, or dress in bizarre costumes, or call your mom before her day slips away again. (You did remember this year, right?) Instead, we’re asked to pause and remember and reflect, to hold close the memory of those who gave everything they had to protect the nation.
And to be honest, we don’t do it all that well. We mean well, most of us, but backyard grills are seductive. And swimming pools. And the chance to grab the first three-day weekend in the last three months or so.
But now … now we have the quiet holiday in the midst of the quiet time. A moment where we’re still supposed to be taking it slow and distant, the perfect atmosphere in which to focus on the things that matter.
What if we actually did?
What if we took the time to remember those who stepped forward to protect those more vulnerable, whatever the sacrifice?
What if we learned from them? And emulated them? Not by hurrying to a foreign battlefield, but by coming to the aid of our friends and neighbors, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable?
What if we took a moment to recall the cost of conflict, and then looked for ways to ease it?
What if we opened ourselves to the lessons of the past, so that we could build a better future?
What if we just stopped to think? To look beyond our skin? To see a need and stand up to fill it, as someone once did for us?
That would be a Memorial Day worth remembering. And not just for the epic barbecue rubs.
Take the opportunity. In a world of uncertainty, be someone’s reassurance, even if it’s through the simplest of acts. In a time where distancing is survival, take the actions that bind all of us closer together, even when we have to stay physically apart.
So many gave so much to bring us where we are. But it’s up to us to carry it forward, with our heart, our willingness, and our sacrifices, big and small.
Don’t do it for applause or acclaim. Do it because we’re counting on each other. Because none of us can do this alone.
You may even find a quiet satisfaction.
And at a time like this, that’s the most fitting reward of all.