As the year comes to an end, I find value in looking back at Trainingpeaks.com record of my activities. I like to compare what I did against what I planned on doing. Was I loyal to my workout commitments? Or did I make up an excuse that equated to saying, “I wasn’t loyal to myself.” Was I loyal to my race commitments? What races did I plan as my A races, and did I treat them as such? It is a valuable endeavor that I recommend we all do, in our work lives and with our personal goals.
Then, I got a real world opportunity outside of athletic training to apply what experience has taught me about loyalty. Last week, I lead out scout troop on a discussion of the application of loyalty, in modern America. The 100+ year old vision of loyalty predates anyone currently living, and when Baden Powell and his successors wrote down what it means. They said,
“A scout is loyal to family, leaders, friends, school and nation.” Lots of kind words here, but some examples to clarify seem appropriate.
Loyalty is when the older brother helps the younger brother with homework, because Mom and Dad forgot how to do it.
Loyalty is when a fireman goes into a burning building to save someone’s life. It isn’t the paycheck that he is being loyal to. It is humanity.
Loyalty is when you visit someone in a nursing home when you would rather being doing something else.
Above all, loyalty is what causes young men to give their lives, in battle, both on domestic soil (police) and on foreign soil (military).
Loyalty is the center piece of an endless cycle of giving and getting that in scouting has repeated itself for decades, as men have continually helped boys to become better men.
And, at the center of the symbol of this loyalty is our country’s flag. Since before written language, there have been flags that represent a people group. To disrespect the flag in some countries (China, for example) is deemed a crime with mandatory jail time. Same goes for the national anthem.
Currently, the US media has created a spotlight directed at those demonstrating disloyalty to the flag. They are using these events to seek attention for their cause. It parallels both in action and intent when a toddler starts breaking things as part of a temper tantrum as he tries to get his way. Those who do choose this specific attention seeking path are a route to tear down a universal value.
At the core of the value of any flag is the desire to have something that represents all of us when words can’t do that. In central North Carolina, there is nothing going on to warrant the attention that the media is putting on the current confusion that a handful of people are experiencing, Most Americans still get the contents of the picture above without the need for an explanation.
The flag represents the country we call our current home. It doesn’t reflect your opinion of your your home, nor does it reflect anything that you have earned or are entitled to. Others earned the right for this to be your flag, and some of them paid the highest price for you to be able to have that flag. If you live here, it is your flag. The only way to change that fact is to move. For the record, I suggest that you stay.
We are grateful that this is our flag. It has survived many wars, intermittent assaults on both is value and its longevity, and it is part of the uniforms that many of us wear, myself included. I love what it stands for and respect those who have graced me with the ability to call it my flag.
The cross, though, represents perhaps the only symbol that is greater. The Cross is the way to our original and true home. Without the cross, no such path to eternity exists. It is for the cross that we kneel. Our hand goes over our heart for the flag. We kneel for the cross.
There is a reasonable chance that some folks just don’t know this. For you, I hope this serves as some education. For those that know it, it is your reminder not get to get caught up in momentary justifications or words from people whom you trust that are deceiving you into believing something contrary. For those that disagree, it is your warning and our plea-don’t tear down that which others have built with their lives. The Chinese get this. Most Americans get this. You should, too.
Finally, John Wayne said, “The very word ‘loyalty’ is life itself, for without loyalty, we have no love of person or country.” Loyalty is inseparable from our identity. Don’t get lost. Be loyal, instead.