“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” – Emily Dickinson
Earlier this month, I met the man who has epitomized this kind of joy in action for our country. It inspired me and I think it will inspire you, too.
Glenn McDuffie was 15 years old when the United States entered World War II. He immediately left his home, lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy.
Glenn had never been more than 20 miles from his home in North Carolina. He spent the next two years homesick, fighting a vicious enemy, living with new friends, losing many of those same friends in battle and serving in the Pacific Ocean.
In the summer of 1945, the Navy provided him the chance to go home for a short visit. He rejoiced with friends and family, but in the back of his mind were memories of kamikaze attacks, lost friends and the reality that he’d soon be returning to war.
At the end of his two week visit, on August 14, 1945, Glenn left his family and began the journey back to his fleet. As he came up from the subway in Times Square, a gentleman said, “I’m happy for you, sailor. No more fighting.” In disbelief, Glenn looked up at the big screen and read, “Japan surrendered; the war is over.”
Glenn was overwhelmed with years of emotions, pain and joy. He threw his hands into the air, ran around, saw a nurse who looked like the nurses he’d seen care for his buddies in the Pacific and sprinted to her. He grabbed her, pulled her close, dipped her and gave her the biggest kiss he’d ever given any woman in his life.
The moment ended. She walked her way and he danced his. Without knowing it, they had just created one of the most iconic moments of the war.
When I met Glenn earlier this month in Arlington, TX, I was humbled. We chatted about his life, his service and his memories. We talked about “the kiss” and the raw emotions that lead to it. Finally, we talked about joy – and how it is refined and perfected through adversity.
From his wheel chair, dressed in his Navy uniform and in a raspy voice, the last thing he shared with me was a lesson he learned 61 years ago in the Navy. Glenn and his buddies made a commitment to live each day as if it might be their last. He said, “John, in war you never know, so we lived passionately back then. But here’s the thing: I still live each day like it might be my last. Someday, I’ll be right!”
My friends, this isn’t really a story of a hero, a kiss or a picture. No, it’s a story calling us to a more passionate level of living. Whether you are preparing to deploy, pick up car pool, make a sales call or visit a patient, your opportunity is to live so vibrantly that it attracts moments into your life that inspire those around you.
That kind of passion isn’t reserved for a one-time picture in Times Square; it’s our opportunity to find it in our daily lives. Create your pictures today that will inspire generations: pictures of you in service to others, celebrating life and living with a zest for the moment you are in.
Live today like it might be your last.
Did Glenn’s message inspire you too? Share your thoughts and comments below!
You can also receive this blog by signing up for John’s Monday Morning Motivation email here.