Purpose in the Moment

As I was cruising down Yorba Linda Blvd today on my way in to work I heard a story.

Ryan Tedder, one of the founders of the band OneRepublic, had called into the radio station I was listening to. He was asked to share his 9/11 experience. He told listeners that on the day the planes crashed into the World Trade Center he was crushed. A few days later he went down to a Navy recruiting station with every intention of joining the military. They told him no. He was an only child and it was highly likely there would be deployments in the future (and there were, as I think we all know the story of Iraq) and Ryan’s family did not need to lose their only child.

Disheartened, Ryan left and in that moment probably felt pretty helpless. Later in life, after his band took off the ground and he was well into his musical career, OneRepublic was able to play for the combined armed forces stationed in Hawaii. After playing a show for them on the 4th of July a woman came up to him, explained she was a sniper and had just gotten back from a tour of duty, and that OneRepublic’s album had gotten her through that hard time.

When one door shut, another door opened, and it ended up helping another individual through a hard time.

I think there is a huge lesson to learn from this: Everything has a purpose; good times, bad times, open doors, and closed doors. We may be going along in life, doing what we think we’re supposed to do, only to find a door we thought would be wide open is closed, locked, and boarded up. It is disheartening and hard to stare at that closed door, wondering what happened. However, a closed door for us in that moment might mean a door opened for someone else who needed it a lot more than us.

We’re such a small part of life that what seems like a tsunami to us is really just a ripple that reaches someone else and changes their life. Ryan Tedder wanted to join the military, to make a difference in the world, and when that door closed he was crushed. Yet that door closing meant he would go on to produce music that would touch the hearts of millions. There was a purpose for that rejection, even if it stung in the moment.

A professor of mine once wrote this on an exam and I think it sums up my point, so I will leave you with this:

There is as much purpose in the present moment as there is in your future. Don’t wait for your life to be meaningful, it already is. Have you ever considered that you already have everything you need?

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Today I’m glad I get to celebrate life even as I remember those who have fallen while serving their country.

Honestly, Memorial Day makes me a little bit emotional just because of my connection to the armed forces. My brother joined the Marines straight out of high school and served two tours in the Middle East. It was hard on my family, hard on me, and of course hard on my brother, but he made a sacrifice to serve his country in one of the riskiest ways possible. He put his life on the line to defend and protect.

So I’m very glad this Memorial Day that he came back from those two tours and that I can have a beer with him when I visit in June. I am blessed.

I know other families out there, however, do not have stories with happy endings like mine. My heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to those with new wounds and old wounds alike. I can understand the sacrifice these families made when they gave up their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives to pursue their passion to serve their country but I will never be able to understand the loss they’ve experienced. God bless the families left behind.

My final thoughts go out to those who have returned, but not without paying a price. As a psychology major I’ve learned about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I understand the basics of it, the symptoms, and the damage it can cause, but nothing compares to the fact that I have seen it up close and personal in people I love. PTSD is a serious problem for the men and women who come back from serving their country and I hope that our country continues to address the problem as it arises.

I also know there are those who come back from war with physical wounds, and my heart goes out to them and their sacrifice too. In the end, I hope people can come to understand just how much Memorial Day really means and what serving in the armed forces is. Young people leave their homes and their families to fight for something greater than themselves and rarely return unscathed, if they return at all. So this Memorial Day I pray that there would be a solemn awareness of the lives that have been put on the line so that we could have BBQs, parties, and a day off of work.

Don’t ever forget that.

If you’d like to help those who have come back from battle hurt and scarred, please consider donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. This is a great organization that works with returning soldiers and their families to help them acclimate to civilian life after an injury.