The tragic events and images of Sept. 11 are forever branded into our collective consciousness as Americans.
When we think of the thousands of innocent lives lost and families shattered on that day, we can't help but feel an enormous sadness.
But even from acts and events so horrific as to defy comprehension, we can take lessons, or more accurately, reminders of things we probably already knew.
The Worst and the Best
It's often been observed that the worst of circumstances can bring out the best in the American people. I believe this is true.
The shock of the terrorist attacks and the adversity of an economic downturn aren't situations that any thinking person would have chosen. But when I look around me, I don't see the soft, selfish, complacent American public that some had told me was there.
I see the American flag more often than I have ever seen it before, and I see the strength of character, the pride and the traditions which stand behind it. I see a nation united in response to tragedy; I see a people determined that they will not bow to the forces of ignorance, hatred and darkness.
I see a land in which freedom will prevail.
Those who sought to destroy us have only made us stronger.
But What Can I Do?
Most of us have probably asked ourselves in the past weeks, "What can I do to help? How can I make a difference?"
What we can do is refuse to be intimidated.
We can refuse to give those who attacked us the satisfaction of seeing us change our way of life. In a very real sense, to carry on with our lives and our business is the most patriotic thing we can do.
"Business as usual" takes on a whole new level of meaning at a time like this. Business as usual -- engaging in the commerce, the give-and-take upon which American business is based -- symbolizes much more than a quest for profit. It stands for belief in our way of life and our institutions. It means we have faith in the future of our nation and of our world.
Your Life Is Now
I don't think I will ever again take my life, or the good things in it, for granted.
Never again will the laughter of my children be anything less than precious to me. Never again will I look at the smiling faces of people who care about me, or enjoy the camaraderie of those with whom I share common goals, without feeling very, very fortunate.
Never again will I let the little moments of joy pass me by -- the moments that are there every day if we but take the time to be in them.
Next time you feel like sharing a laugh with a friend, take the time to do it. Next time you have a chance to make a child smile or bring some kindness to an elderly person, take the time to share it.
If you've always wanted to take that class, earn that account, learn that instrument or master that software, now is the time.
Next time you're outdoors, fully experience the feeling of the sun or the rain on your skin. Feel the breeze on your face and the ground beneath your feet, because every moment of your life is priceless beyond words.
Your life isn't permanent. Make the most of it.