Moments to Memories

“It was all very impressive and was over in what seemed like seconds”

-Quote from Single Harness

By: Gary DeBoard

I once heard a story of an ambitious young man whose dream was to build a company that produced world class children’s entertainment complete with characters and original story lines much like Walt Disney World. In fact, this man’s model in life and business was Walt Disney himself. It was audacious and quite frankly absurd, as most dreams are. But besides an obvious talent for his craft, this man had that “something” that few men do. As fanciful and generic as the dream sounded, he had a chance. A chance to make it big. And not just big, but massive.

It started as many of these stories do- one guy with a dream in some small room in the middle of relatively nowhere with no money. But the passion for the dream was contagious and before long there were multiple people working toward this dream. For awhile it was difficult. There were victories and defeats, and the defeats were resounding and large. But after a time, the victories became a little bigger than the defeats. And then, inextricably, it happened. The preverbal fly wheel started to turn. Momentum was on his side and the defeats were no where to be found. He amassed wealth, power, influence, notoriety, and success. His dream was no longer fanciful fiction but an intriguing story of an ambitious man that looked oddly like Walt Disney in his younger years.

But as the convincing ocean wave builds mightily only to mysteriously duck under the water to never be seen again, so the dream that once seemed so promising and even successful was gone. Bad business and shady partners were its doom.  In his commentary on the aftermath of his now failed dream, years removed, you could still hear the longing for what was in his words and voice. Though broken hearted he still remembered fondly the groundswell of success. He marveled at how impressive it all was, for a time, and remarked how quickly it seemed to end.

Whether we’ll accept it or not, in hindsight this is always how life works. Have you ever heard an older person remark how slow their life seemed to move when they reminisce? Or have you ever heard the empty nest parent, in their most serious moment, wish they had less time with their kids? As hard as we try, we can’t slow it down. And we do try, though foolish as it is. Why is it that we struggle so much to accept finality? Why is it that we cannot be content with what was, even as fleeting as it was. Why must we always grasp for more when what we had was almost always enough? These questions move us to the heart of our insecurities and true selves. Yet the answers are not absent or non-existent. They are there to be found, but they must be sought out. Until we figure out those answers, let us be mindful of the moment and the phase of life in which we find ourselves. Because in what will seem like seconds, those impressive moments will be but a memory.

All Ripples Travel

“It was a good game that may even have served a purpose.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

You never know in life the things that will make a difference. You never know how one thing will affect another and then another even still. The most minute detail or experience could likely have a profound impact on one’s ability to be a person they never would have been had it not been for that seemingly insignificant moment.

We see these moments and experiences scattered through history in the lives of those who have accomplished the most astounding things. One of those such lives was Walt Disney. This man behind the mouse grew up in the very American town of Marceline, Missouri, with the very American job of a paper route. And it was in these moments of the hardest kind of work, in the coldest kind of winters that Walt Disney learned the value and necessity of hard work regardless of the circumstances. This would be a value and a trait that would later loom large in his relentless pursuit of the most iconic company in the history of the modern age.

Then there was the late Silicon Valley founder, Steve Jobs. In his initial moment of profound insight, his father would come home and teach him how to take apart and put together radios and TV’s. These quintessential moments would later lead him to not just influence culture, but create it. The touchscreen wonder in your pocket and the tablet you are likely reading this on right now are all a direct result of a seemingly insignificant moment in a garage 50 years ago.

There was also the great communicator, Ronald Reagan. Fresh out of college, Reagan decided to interview for a radio broadcast job at a university in Iowa. Little did he know, this was the first domino out of many that would fall to lead him to places no one ever thought he would go- all the way to the presidency of the United States. And not just any president, but one of the most significant and important in our nation’s history. Yet it was the insignificant radio job that would, among many other things, provide him the experience and opportunity to ultimately possess the most important job in the world.

These people and their stories are worth remembering if for no other reason than they remind us that the big things in life don’t “just happen”. Instead, the big things require the little things. And it’s the little things that in hindsight, are the most mysterious of all. What if Walt never had the paper route? What if Jobs rode his bike instead of being in the garage? What if Reagan never took the job? Of course we can’t know the answers to those questions and for the sake of our psyche it’s probably best we don’t even ask. But it’s slightly comforting knowing that maybe, just maybe that fairly insignificant thing you’ll do tomorrow might just serve a purpose.

Perfectly Anonymous

“It was back to that perfectly anonymous thing, and it was a concept never discussed but shared by us all. You’ve never heard of us. No one has.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

History books are filled with legends and heroes. Individuals who led with unparalleled valiancy, who performed feats of bravery, and who sacrificed in such a way as to never be forgotten. This category of person includes the likes of Abraham Lincoln, who in one of history’s great speeches said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The irony of course was that the world did remember, and we remembered not just what they did, but what Lincoln did as well.

There are also other lesser known people like Meriwether Lewis, whose acts of stunning courage and fortitude in his march west, freed the heart of every explorer’s self made boundaries and showed them it was possible to do what they thought was nearly impossible.

Then there are the more “common” people. Like those found on the airplane bound for the heart of our nation one September day who decided, at great cost to themselves, that they could not bear evil destroying the thing they obviously loved.

Because of their extraordinary acts, these people have earned themselves sentences, paragraphs, and even pages in the hallowed history books of the world. And to these rarified humans, history rightfully pays special homage.

And yet, there exists another category of people. A category that is never spoken of, lauded, or memorialized simply because no one ever knew.  Anonymous people who do great acts on the level of a true “hero”, are the most mysterious and oddly satisfying kind of people. To be sure history requires both- the person who is memorialized and the one who is not. But the funny thing about those who are not, is that almost every time they meant it to be that way. In fact, in a world that technology has made increasingly small, everyone knows culture’s valiant few. Yet for the anonymous, their names will never grace a news report or find their way into the living room of the average family. But all the while there is something quite stunning and refreshing about this. That there are those among us who commit praiseworthy acts of varying degrees with zero expectation of reward, celebration, or glory. That somehow their intention was simply to do good. The anonymous hero speaks to the deeper nobility, the more significant truth inside us all.

So to those among us who have been the heroes that history will never know, we thank you and express the deepest amount of gratitude possible for not just being a hero, but being a hero who remained anonymous. Whose concern in those golden moments, was not for themselves but for those they came to help.

A Walk in the Woods

“…up the hill and back into those deep woods no one visits even today.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

The Woods

The woods can be a mysterious and almost mythical place for those who pay attention. There is something about the cacophony of insect sounds, the smell of leaves both wet and fresh, and the feeling of being in a place much bigger than yourself. It’s a place that demands your attention- lest you catch your foot on the upended root. But it’s also a place that pulls you away. Away from the smaller and less significant things of life. It’s one of the few places left in the world that seems almost untouched by the world.

If you have the occasion to be alone on your walk in the woods, you will be struck by a most unfamiliar thing- silence. And it will be there in that silence, amidst the uneven ground and humid air, that your mind will begin to work in a different way. CS Lewis said, “The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, sound like barren platitudes.” One would wonder how many of these truths, “so ancient and simple” are discovered in the quietness of places very much like the woods.

The Woods 2 But on your quiet walk through the woods you are likely to be confronted by another quality that is sometimes misunderstood- solitude. Often we run from this. Seeking to fill the quietness and aloneness with something- anything really. But it’s only in solitude where one can hear enough and see enough to find the most meaningful of life’s truths. Ralph Waldo Emerson viewed it as something to attain when he said, “..but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Perhaps it is an acquired taste, to roam the forest and listen only to your thoughts, to push the brush aside and silently wonder what is over the next rise. Perhaps you are convinced that life’s more important questions can’t be found in the silence, that solitude is only for a few. But if the answers ultimately elude you and the noise is too much to bear, you might find your way down some long winding road where you’ll park your car to the side and journey into the woods. And from time to time you may encounter a fellow walker. While your politeness may demand something more, it’s best in these moments to give a knowing look and silently pass to the right.

Coming Home

“…my step Granddad survived the Bataan Death March and never quite came back…everyone called it “shell shocked” back then.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

There has always been a unique fascination with the phrase, “fog of war.” First coined by military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, the term has found its way into pop culture. And though it is legitimately experienced by only a few, all instinctively understand it. In fact, one can see it practically portrayed in many a war scene from the comfort of their own home. But for those who know it more intimately, they know it all too well.

“War”, according to Robert McNamara, “…is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend.” The awfulness of many a war is truly incomprehensible. And if the “fog of war” is difficult to bear in war, then how much more difficult is the aftermath of the incomprehensible when all is done, the air is still, and nothing but the sound of quietness is heard. The psychological aftermath of war has the ability to inextricably strip the mind bare and leave the soldier always searching for something he cannot find. Many an American warrior has come home only to never find it the same again. As the song in Les Miserables so eloquently and painfully exclaims, “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.”

In our modern era we have put a medical diagnosis to this post war “shell shock.” Doctors call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Though the PTSD diagnosis is used for other traumatic events beside war, it was first recognized in the war veteran. PTSD is of course nothing new. Soldiers have long dealt with the emptiness that comes from the post war quietness. It is just simply a new label. But at the same time, it serves as a reminder. A reminder that the cost to our warriors reaches far beyond the battlefield and into their homes, relationships, and other areas of life. Of course this is not to say that all soldiers come home with massive phycological wounds. Because they don’t. But for more mysterious reasons some struggle more than others. But the point is this- every soldier that comes home, brings with them more than they took. And they will deal with those things for the entirety of their lives. Let us be careful to take care of those (and their families) who have sacrificed so much so that we ultimately could be free.

As we wrap up 2 wars and seemingly start another, times of relative peace seem far off. And our warriors likely will once again be called upon to right the world. But as they come home, let us be sure and help them. Help them find the home they left so we wouldn’t have to.

ISIS and the Innocents

“What we always knew that they didn’t…because of the torture we’d seen committed on the most defenseless people by those with all the power…was that if we did our job we could be the answer to the victims’ prayers and those of the victims parents and children.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

Half a world away, the terror organization ISIS dominates parts of Iraq and Syria with an unthinkably cruel grip. Behind our borders we see the awful videos of the coward in black who holds a stained blade to the throats of innocent people. We hear reports of unspeakable atrocities of not just men, but women and children as well. These things come upon our more reformed senses with a shock that is foreign and difficult to place in the reality that exists outside of our flat screen tvs and twitter accounts. But there it is, confronting us at every turn.

While the cruelty of ISIS should not be downplayed, they are hardly the first “cause” that has gone roughly beyond human imagination in their cruelty toward humanity. Every century, every generation has their “ISIS” to contend with. Whether it’s a Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, a Chemical Ali and Iraq, or even a Hitler and the Nazis, every one of these innumerable world-sized acts of evil (shrouded in a “cause”) is simply a justification to kill innocent people. People who could not hope to possibly defend themselves against such evil.

Whether we choose to ignore it or not, the world is often an evil place. Humans have the amazing capacity to love. Yet they also retain the terribly astounding ability to commit great evil. Gone unchecked and without the rule of law (and its consequences), evil makes itself a paradise where it is the ruler. Behind it’s borders, their power and their foolish perspective would grow until the world could not ignore them, even if they tried.

It was in the well known quote that is often attributed to Edmund Burke where he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s difficult for a truer statement to be made. ISIS, for instance, will not simply lay down their knives and apologize to the world. They are an evil that must be eradicated because of what they have done and what they will continue to do. But the more difficult determination is this: who are the good men who will stand and fight the evil? America is once again poised to lead against the triumph of evil.

As a people we must not be tempted to turn our eyes from those who are defenseless. We must always be willing, if necessary, to fight in the open or in the shadows for those who cannot fight for themselves. Because sometimes, we are the answers to their prayers.


“…The real heroes are the soldiers who follow orders into a pitched battle knowing the odds are they won’t make it, but believing in their leaders and their country so deeply they will not stop.

Like Firefighters running into a burning building and Law Enforcement running toward shots being fired.

The Real Heroes.”

-Quote from, “Single Harness”

As our country has just remembered the 13th anniversary of the “other” day that will live in infamy, the 9/11 attacks, I’m reminded again of heroes. Not those heroes culture blindly pays homage to like athletes and movie stars, but the kind of heroes who actually define the word.

On that September day, heroes could be seen in black and yellow coats running up endless flights of stairs in doomed skyscrapers. They did this not to extinguish a fire but to save people. People trapped by the evil intentions of others. People whose only hope was the hero’s tenacity and fortitude. When all of lower Manhattan was running from the towers, these fire fighters were calmly and heroically walking toward the towers. These heroes defined their generation. As the towers crumbled, the Pentagon burned, and a field in Pennsylvania was made sacred by other heroes, the innocence of a country was taken, only to be immediately recaptured again by its heroes.

Other heroes could be seen in the following months as America’s great warriors, undaunted by bullets or explosions, launched themselves into the chaos to atone for the deaths of their fellow Americans. With only a simple order and faith in their country, they fought with ultimate disregard to themselves and proved once again that freedom is not free. With bravery and kindness a great many of them honored those heroes who wore the uniform before them. With grace and courage they not only fought an enemy bent on killing us, but in their mighty wake they came to the rescue of an oppressed and miserable people. Their victory was assured if only for the nobility of their mission.

Heroes are heroes because they believe in something noble. They believe in it so much that they are willing to sacrifice, sometimes at great cost to themselves for the advancement of the cause. Whether it is a fireman climbing stairs to save innocents or soldiers fighting on a distant battlefield, as Americans we believe in the ideals of liberty. And that liberty is worth fighting for, even dying for. Those that carry that torch are not just worth remembering, but are true heroes in every sense of the word.