August 24, 2019-
The father of one of the 19 Wildland Firefighters who died in the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire, gave me a wristband that his son had devised, shortly before his death, that said, simply, “Be Better”. Andrew used this to remind himself, and his loved ones, to strive daily for self-improvement. So, I am deeply honoured that I should have this wristband to wear.
I have also had this as my motivating force, climbing out of various ruts and working to treat those around me with ever more consideration and equanimity, especially over the past eight years. Every so often, I slip. We all do. The wristband will help remind me to not let any provocation set me on a downward path.
This brings me to the natural inclination that we have, to attack what we don’t understand, perhaps thinking that, if there is enough vehemence in one’s voice, the “bad guy” will go away. This is a much more tightly-connected world than in the days of White and Black Hats. Those we fear and loathe tend to hang out on the fringes, rather than just disappearing.
So, improving oneself not only takes on an increased urgency, it also serves as a beacon for even those who regard us with loathing. “Be Better” does not draw a concrete trench between us; it beckons us to resolve that which stands between us.
It is no secret that I have friends across the political spectrum, standing only against bullying and violent, excluding behaviour. A person’s viewpoint is always subject to being challenged; but it is theirs to explain, and to hold, and hopefully to expose to new information.
I learned that one of my more politically conservative friends passed away, at a very young age, a few days ago. I will miss our sharing of visits to Indiana Dunes and her accounts of the beauty of Brown County, in the south central part of Indiana, and I will miss her keen mind, while remembering that my more moderate views on things Federal did not always sit well with her. Being better, though, always resonated with A, even as it does with several of her fellow conservatives and many of my more liberal and progressive friends.
One needs no one’s agreement, or permission, to work on oneself, after all.