Friday, March 14, 2014

The Spirit of a Kissing Sailor

Today I read that Glenn Mcduffie, the man who claimed to be the kissing sailor in Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic V-J Day photo, died of natural causes at 86. And, as I stared at this photo (which I often do), I realized I felt as though the spirit of it has died, too.

When I think of the ideal old America, I think of this photo; it has always fascinated me. It is hard these days, in this world of critics, to believe something like this could happen. When WWII victory was confirmed, spontaneous celebrating burst forth in the streets of New York and other cities across the world. In some ways, I'm jealous of the people in this photo-- not the fact that they endured such an atrocious war, necessarily, but the fact that they did not allow that war to kill their spirit. I'm not simply speaking of patriotism, but of good old fashioned conviction for what you stood for. Victory was sweet because what they fought for was, for them, a worthy cause. Victory was sweet because they had sacrificed much, given much, worked hard and fought hard, whether on the battlefields or the homefront.

I see this photo, and others like it, and I yearn for a time of goodwill and of good people. Maybe that is an ideal that never really existed, or maybe it did and has been lost over time; maybe it's not as lost as we think it is, but so much bad news has muddied our blue skies. The fact is, it doesn't have to be lost, not on me, and not on you. We can bring back a time of high moral ideals and good will, starting in our own hearts, then in our own homes, with our own families, then with all those we encounter. We can hope the best for others, we can help, we can have compassion, we can believe. 

It's so easy to join the negative bandwagon, it's so easy to lose your hope in humanity, but will talking about how bad matters are make matters better? Perhaps the key is not waiting for good news to come along to celebrate, but to live this life with our eyes open wide enough to see what is actually worth celebrating. I'm sure you and I could recall a hundred bad things that happened to us the past month, if we wanted to, but what would that do for me? How would that help you? What if, instead, we focused on the good, what if we talked more about the good than the bad? Over the years I have read various articles and heard multiple stories about the power of a positive outlook, living a life free of grudges and bitterness, and it has been said that such a positive perspective can even extend your life. Yet, how many of us meet people who seem infatuated with the negative? How many of us trade and deal in the negative ourselves?

Some things we have the power to change, to make better, and some things we do not. So change what you can change, and endure what you cannot change, but don't let anything kill your spirit. Find the reasons to celebrate every day, and live as if the war waged against them was just won.

I hope that Mr. Mcduffie and others of his time died feeling as though they did something positive to help their fellow man, and I hope that today, those of us who are alive, will work to keep their torches burning.

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