Have you ever lost that certain spark, that eternal flame of energy for what you love to do, or even whom you love, only to find that a connection with another person or place or experience reignites it? Suddenly, that eternal flame is reborn with new energy, new purpose, new meaning. If you’ve been on Earth for any length of time at all, you likely know what I mean. Even better is to realize that you can be that same spark for others.
Much of my work centers around helping my clients understand their eternal flame and how to feed it. Do they need social engagement with others? Time alone to think? Exercise? A good book? A household project? Photography? Writing? It doesn’t matter what feeds our eternal flame but you need to know what it is for you.
I’ve run hard for a couple of months. I am tired. This holiday weekend gave me three days to do whatever I wanted. What I wanted most was unscheduled time in the garden and a visit to my past.
Memorial Day is time to for me to reconnect with my father who served in Korea. He died when I was young. I look at my scrapbook from 6th grade, the first school year after he passed away. Sometimes, not often enough, I visit his grave. And anytime I’m with military folks or police officers, I form a connection between my heart, my eternal flame, and my dad. That nourishes me because if there is anything that boosts my eternal flame, it’s the remembrance that our loved ones live within us and through us; how we conduct ourselves is a reflection upon them. Why? At the center of an eternal flame lie one’s values.
The components of the eternal flame I inherited from my father include: Courage. Confidence. Strong work ethic. A sense of right and wrong. Humor. Caring for others. Athletics. Commitment to the team. I bring them to my work when I help teams dig deep for courage and confidence, when I use humor to light the way, and when they leave with a deeper commitment to their teams. I use the same components to self-lead.
The photo at the top is from President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Mrs. Kennedy insisted upon an eternal flame, inspired by those at other global monuments including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. She had to fight for it, and she won.
One of the quotes from President Kennedy is inscribed near the eternal flame.
“And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you – but together what we can do for the freedom of mankind.”
That fuels my eternal flame because within each of us lies infinite possibility and with possibility comes freedom. Education is freedom. Insight is freedom. Encouragement is freedom. Awareness is freedom. Sparking an eternal flame is freedom.
The day I visited Arlington, heaven was wringing out its tears. If you’ve not been to Arlington, it is a very moving experience because of the scale of the cemetery and the immediate connection it forms to one’s own sense of loss. The sheer number of graves is a somber reminder of those who served our country and died for our country. They roll endlessly, lying beneath the outstretched arms of massive oak trees.
In the background, from a direction that’s impossible to detect, you may hear the mournful music of Taps. Each soldier was and is the eternal flame for someone else. And because all gravestones are the same, when you stand behind them and observe them spilling down the hillside, it’s impossible to tell rank, age, or race. Bullets and bombs do not discriminate. Luckily, neither does our reservoir of courage.
If you visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you’ll find that the Unknown Soldier is not alone. The Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Their dignity, ritual, and commitment to excellence is riveting. No matter the weather, they remain on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. That inspires me to be a 24/7 friend and supporter of others.
Today I happened to be walking near a cemetery when, long before I got there, I heard the cry of a bagpipe. With each step, my ears leaned in to discern it over the rumble of passing cars – or was I imagining it? I was not. Amazing Grace pealed from his instrument as multiple wreathes, perhaps one for each branch of service, were placed in a position of distinction. I stopped and watched the ceremony, an outsider peering through a chain fence. I put my hand over my heart as a veteran played Taps on his bugle. I lowered my head when the chaplain read a prayer. I was moved by the sight of veterans, young and old, some hobbling along with walkers, honoring those they’d loved and lost. It was a dose of Vitamin B for my eternal flame – we must never forget those we have loved and lost.
YOUR ETERNAL FLAME
Who or what feeds your eternal flame? Are you moved by those who are no longer with us? How do you show it? What can you do with that energy to “support the freedom of mankind?” How will your eternal flame be remembered after you are gone?
As this Memorial Day draws to a close, I am rejuvenated to be that spark for others’ eternal flame because every day is Memorial Day, an opportunity to remember with gratitude those who inspire us to extend our hearts and our minds to help others reach their full potential. In doing so, we accomplish the same goal for ourselves.