Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Answer me: does it really matter if you are recognized for the job that you do? You have to admit, it would be nice every once in awhile, just to know you're making a difference. It's always nice to be thanked for a job well done. But is it necessary to be recognized for us to do our daily job and purpose in life? Not really. The overwhelming majority of us go off to work, raise our families, take care of our friends, involve ourselves in our church and invest in our community and nation ... often times as humble stewards, without a word of daily thanks.

There are, in the Latin language, two forms of gratitude. They are both spelled gratis (meaning "pleasing"), but it's here where the difference occurs. One form of gratitude is that which is outwardly extended to others, as a form of thanks for their efforts, service, presence, etc. The other form of gratitude is that which is rarely spoken about and is one that inwardly projected. It is that gratitude we feel from being blessed with Life; it is that gratitude that helps so many of us pull ourselves out of our bed in the morning and face another day - whether we received kudos or not. It is knowing that the we exert our daily effort - mostly unseen - because of what we believe or hope the outcome will be. From simple acts of charity and kindness to grander acts of heroism; to do it all because we are called to do so... not because of a dangling carrot or earthly prize. This might very well have been said about the life of James Parks.

With its inception, the initial graves to begin Arlington National Cemetery were dug by James Parks. Is there anything historically known about Mr. Parks? Not much. Did he receive a congressional thanks for his efforts? I seriously doubt it. And he remains relatively unknown to all. Who was he?

James Parks was a former Arlington Estate slave, the same property on which Arlington National Cemetery was birthed. In fact, James Parks was born on this very property as a slave of the earlier Arlington Estate. From the little information I was able to find, James Parks did not venture at all from the Arlington Estate vicinity and eventually died in relative obscurity.

But here is the grand conclusion of James Parks: As the official Arlington National Cemetery attests, "Parks outlived slavery, the Civil War and two wives. During his many years he fathered 22 children. When he died in 1929, the secretary of war made an exception to policy, and Parks was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Section 15, Grave 2. James Parks rests among the hills and trees he played in as a boy, worked in as an adult, and remembered as an old man..."

Buried in Section 15, James Parks is the only person buried in Arlington National Cemetery who was also born on that property. With very little thanks throughout his life, he continued to work on the Arlington Estate and later dig the beginnings of the National Cemetery. But his efforts during the initial development of Arlington National Cemetery were not wasted for they are now part of the fabric of one of the richest tributes to our men and women of the United States military... and he is in their midst.

Should we be thanked - and thanked often - for our efforts? Most assuredly. Will this always occur? Not likely. And it is then that our inward gratis allows us to see past the prize and focus solely on the purpose.

hoedl's haven
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