Sunday, September 15, 2013

Commentary /Personal– Memories, Purpose and Duty . . .


Odd day today, lots of memories of my time spent in Haiti. Honestly, it’s not on the “tip of my tongue” so to speak but I was asked to write an article for our parish bulletin as part of our fall fundraising campaign. The thumbnail sketch of our relationship with Haiti is that we support a priest that moves between 24 villages south and west of Port au Prince. The process is called “twinning”, where they become an actual “part” of our parish. Our annual goal is to provide enough funding to educate approximately 120 students every year – including books, teacher’s salaries and a meal a day. Every trip provides its own set of memories . . . and I was asked to write a couple paragraphs about my most “memorable” memory . . . the following is what I wrote.

We all gathered for Mass in a combination school, community building and church. The pews were simple wooden benches – a single row, front to back that sat 100 and a handful more. There are no kneelers – simply a concrete floor that old and young rested their knees on. Mass was “Mass” – the flow familiar and peaceful, simply in Créole. Readings were translated, the Homily too - that all could participate and understand.

During the intercessions, one lady spoke up and offered her simple request . . . . and it is my memory. It was simple, profound and powerful for me. “Please, do not forget us when you go home . . .”  She didn’t want food or money or a new church or a new school . . . . she simply wanted a place in our hearts. When I returned and was asked to share the experience of my trip at Mass – quite literally the day after I returned, I had a hard time even getting this experience out of my mouth.  Even today it still moves my heart in a very strong way.

I believe our parish has honored her simple request, returning each year – committing to the education of the children, filling specific needs that are defined during each trip. The young men in medical school that we are helping will fill a true need in a country and region that have so few doctors and the funding for the teachers and their students help assure more will follow. I would simply ask everyone to be generous in supporting this extended part of our family. And to honor one of their very first requests – to simply be remembered.

If any of you have any interest in reading my entire trip diary – you can find it here. It was written day by day and posted upon our return. As you can see from the website the tradition wasn’t carried on, yet I have left it in place. Just a heads up, it’s long!

The memory remains so strong that I physically choke up every time I recount this small little bit of my life. She only wanted to be remembered . . . . isn’t that what we all truly desire? To leave our mark in history?

So how does all this wrap around to something valuable to a defensive shooting website? That comes in part two – purpose.

Haiti has taught me a lot about “purpose”. First world folks simply have no way to fully understand third-world “needs”. It’s very tempting to go, see and tell the folks in the village what they need . . . Fr. Antonio was a great example. He walked between the villages – his donkey died – malnutrition. His horse died – malnutrition. So he walks . . . in cheap plastic “jellies”. His longest trek was 18 hours by foot – one way. “We” knew he needed shoes – good sturdy shoes or hiking boots. He smiled and simply showed us how leather boots would simply not hold up to the hills, paths and rivers he crossed every day on foot. Two Dollar plastic jellies were far superior to two hundred dollar hiking boots. Our “knowledge’ vs. his experience . . . it was humbling in many ways. Our purpose was to help . . . . we were truly clueless on how to accomplish that on our first trip back in 2005.

When you put your weapon on your hip each morning . . . what’s your purpose? To feel “manly” or “womanly” or “empowered”? Have you even thought about it? If you simply need to “feel” a certain way – you might want to reconsider your choice to carry. Or do you have an actual purpose. I see mine as being ready to defend myself, my family or those near me. I’m clear on this, it is why I carry, it’s why I spend time every day on my SIRT range, it’s why I get to the range as much as possible, it’s why I read and train. We have had this discussion before but I would ask you again – become clear on why you have your carry permit or why you are training to get it. It will help clarify much of your life that revolves around that gun on your hip.

Finally – duty. Duty spans a truly broad stroke of your life. Duty as a person, a husband, a wife, a father or mother, a parent, an employee . . .we all have a duty to “be our best person”. And if you wonder what the hell I mean by that little turn of phrase . . . a friend used to be fond of asking “what are you pretending not to know?” You know what you are capable of. You know if you’re doing your best or sloughing off. You know if you are giving it your all. Stop being dishonest with yourself – and that is perhaps your greatest duty and responsibility . . . . to be honest with yourself.

Let’s see if I can drag this all together . . .

Your memories guide you; they inform you what “works” and what doesn’t. They can help you set goals and find your path in life. They help you define your purpose, your direction. And, with clarity of purpose comes a sense of duty – those things you must do because they are simply “you”.

Does this make sense?? Who knows . . . but I still see the small woman looking at me and asking that I not forget her . . . .

. . . . and she’s weighted heavily on my mind this day.


  1. Wonderful post. I shall remember... "those things you must do because they are simply "you".

  2. Duty, Honor, Country... You've never forgotten. Thank you!

  3. Duty, Honor, Country... You've never forgotten. Thank you!

  4. Brighid - thank you. Haiti is a special place with so many needs and so many lessons.

    Jim - thanks, I hope I have . . . at least I give it my best shot.