Have Heart, Will Travel

4 Lessons from 14 years of Reflection

Nancy Powell2 Comments
The Sphere from the World Trade Center and the flame at Battery Park.

The Sphere from the World Trade Center and the flame at Battery Park.

Of course anyone much over the age of 20 remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.  

I am no exception and have written about that day, our experience and the immediate aftermath of Mark's and my experience before.  Working in downtown DC, a few blocks from the White House, Mark working for the State Department and our apartment overlooking the Pentagon (where many dear friends worked) made the experience intense, surreal, and extremely personal.

But I don't want to write about that day today.

I do believe that I learned things from that day.  You could even say our current Grand Adventure is, in small part, a culmination of living out some of the lessons learned from that episode of our lives.  It just so happens that our travels have led us to be here in New Jersey, very close to Ground Zero, on this anniversary of 9/11 and I'm a bit reflective.

Today iwant to share what I believe after 14 years of reflection on that day.

These are not deep thoughts that you have never had yourself.  Just a collection of a few good "Rules of Thumb" for Life.

1. Those words you just spoke to your loved one could be your very last, so make them kind.

Kindness is too undervalued in our society today. Even in our own homes.  None of us want to lose a loved one knowing that the last words we spoke to them were thoughtless, cruel or critical.  Even worse if we leave loved ones behind with the last words we spoke to them being ones that would bring them sadness.

Kindness is free and accessible to everyone. There is no excuse not to be kind.

2. The greatest way you can show love really is to lay down your life for another.

Jesus said it 2000 years before many people lived it out that day.  There were so many first responders running the opposite direction of the crowd.  Policemen, firemen, other officials...doing what they knew was right even in the face of fatal danger.  But there were also civilian citizens, airplane passengers, co-workers, all sorts of "normal" people who took actions that either did cost them their lives or that very well could have.  These people exhibited incredible bravery, yes, but I say they demonstrated LOVE.

3. There are many ways to have courage and humanity needs more of it.

I really love word origins and love that the word courage comes from the same Latin word cor or heart.  Courage isn't exactly the same thing as bravery, nor does it mean being fearless.  Rather it means:

"The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution"

So many people have had to show courage in the aftermath of 9/11. Beyond those who showed courage that day, we had mothers who had to face raising their children without a husband, parents who had to find a way to go on after suffering the horrible, unthinkable loss of a child, a country who has had to lose way too many soldiers; businessmen and women who had to have courage to take risks and rebuild businesses and start new ones.  Individuals and communities had to find courage from deep within after suffering all kind of personal, communal, economic and emotional losses.

People had to be resolute.

To be resolute in the face of 'danger, fear, or vicissitudes' takes hope, another one of my favorite words and concepts. Hope is a confidence of something happening in the future.  Hope is a confidence you can have that God knows what you need and has a future planned for your benefit.  

I'll be honest...sometimes I just want to fast forward the world to the part where we all get a blessed future from God.  I don't understand why we have to exhibit so much courage, sometimes.  But God is patient and the wonderful future for many of us is in the life to come.  I have hope.

In the meantime, to all of us who have to exhibit daily courage to get through life with illness, loss, hurtful memories and more, hang in there and know that the world needs our courage.

4.  Don't put off doing what's important to you--the future may not go the way you planned.

This is the obvious lesson from 9/11, right?  The future may not go the way we envision.  None of us are guaranteed one minute more.  If we live a long life, will we have health? Will we have our friends and family? Will we have the job we love? Will we be able to work at all? 

Thinking along these lines enabled us to know which values were most important to us as a family.  Deciding to live according to your values can bring small or large changes. Or both.  You do not have to do anything drastic, it's more about living intentionally to ensure your days are spent in a way you won't regret.

9/11 was an immense tragedy.  I believe that one of many ways we can honor those who lost their lives that day is by living ours with gratitude and fullness, and accepting each day as a gift.