We say that we will never forget, but we do.
Time passes and memories fade. It gets harder to remember the lines at the creases of a person’s smile or they way their voice rang out when they laughed.
The visceral emotion of tragedy fades and a less noticeable thing takes it’s place. The pain isn’t gone, but it’s different. Tolerable somehow. Constant background noise that only flares up occasionally when a date approaches or a song comes on or a certain smell takes us right back to that moment in a very real way.
I remember where I was. Most of us do.
I was standing in my parent’s kitchen. My dad was in the living room watching tv and I heard him say, “Kelsey come in here… you were just there!”
And I had been. The summer before I had gone with a group of students to tour NYC and meet Tom Browkaw and talk about our Honor By Listening project. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like to watch those events unfold.
I was back for a week or so, between finishing my summer job as a wildland firefighter and starting my Freshmen year of college. I knew I wanted to make a difference. Impact people’s lives. Be a little bit of light out there in a dark world. And I thought I was going to do that by becoming a teacher… and we all know that didn’t happen.
It was a long path to here. A journey I didn’t expect to be on. One that has challenged me in ways I can’t begin to describe. One that has been the most rewarding and fulfilling and opened up endless possibilities for me and what I can accomplish in this life here on Earth.
I have found it hard to describe to others - this feeling of service. What it means to be part of a profession that willingly takes risks to ensure the safety of others. A job that could, on it’s worst day, take me away from my family to help save a complete stranger’s life. And I think others - military, police, nurses, first responders - who join their respective profession with the true intention of serving have a difficult time putting their motivation in to words that accurately describe why they do what they do.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that my job was fun… fuck it’s amazing! I get to do some pretty cool shit with some pretty cool people, make a decent living and have a lot of time off with family and friends.
But there are some days that you couldn’t pay me to repeat. It’s difficult to not become jaded and a bit cynical when you consistently see the less-than-stellar side of society. And while today most people will post #NeverForget, I think we have.
We have forgotten how to be kind and loving and generous in the face of adversity. We have forgotten how to give others Grace. We have forgotten what it feels like to come together as someone, or something, is trying so desperately to tear us apart.
We have forgotten that our opinion isn’t the only one and that our individual selves are not the center of the universe. We have forgotten how to build relationships with real people, face-to-face instead of online. We have forgotten how to truly listen. We have forgotten how to sacrifice.
We have forgotten that the most effective way to make a difference in this world isn’t to write about it or blast our short-sided accusations on social media, or sit during the National Anthem or protest. It is to literally go out in to our communities and contribute. It doesn’t matter how. Just contribute.
Volunteer, become a mentor… fuck, smile at someone. But continuing to talk without taking action, is a zero return investment. Be content that you have lived your life in a way, that if you ran in to that building and didn’t come out, you would have left your mark on this world and people would be better for it