Have you ever watched the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.
If you’ve never seen the movie, may I suggest you probably should take the time to watch it, even if the violence in it is too much for you to digest?
The first thirty minutes of the movie and the last 30 minutes of the movie are perhaps the most realistic depiction of war ever made by Hollywood. Steven Spielberg directed an unfortunate and horrifically real masterpiece.
The movie, without giving away all the plot elements, is about a small platoon of soldiers on D-Day who are asked to find the only living brother of four after his brothers have all been killed in recent action.
General Marshall sends orders to save the one living brother to prevent their mother from having to grieve over the loss of all four of her boys. No doubt a noble cause!
At the end of the movie, as the leader of the band of men (played by Tom Hanks) who have finally found Private Ryan (played by a young Matt Damon) is literally passing away, he whispers in Ryan’s ear, “Earn this!”
You see, at that moment many men had passed away in an all-out effort to save Private Ryan’s life and Hank’s character didn’t want the effort lost on this young man’s conscience.
Watching this movie, you cannot separate yourself from all the unbelievable heartbreak and horrific sense of loss that these men and their families must have suffered during the war, or any war for that matter.
Imagine being with your grade twelve graduating class and within a minute of landing on the beach, all but three of you are left alive!
Then you must piece together with a whole host of others to create a new class, only for it to slowly but surely be dramatically culled right before your eyes over and over again!
Hanks’ character’s words in that moment of the movie made me think a lot about the concept of earning your life. Something I’ve tried to remind myself of ever since.
You see, so many of us today just seem to believe that our life is a right, and how dare we not be automatically happy as we flow blindly through life collecting all our baubles and trinkets. We somehow expect it should be right, rather than earn the right to have it.
So for me, there are five important tenets of life that allow us to be worthy of our life on this planet.
The first is to work without complaint.
Most these days again perceive that a job, or even better, a career is a right.
Unfortunately for a great deal of the population of this world, a job that pays them a reasonable and sustainable wage is something they might only dream of, not expect.
So if you have one, understand that it is a privilege and that the person you work for, or the person who buys your services has provided you with the privilege of serving them.
Do your work with all you have, and do it like you know it might not be there tomorrow.
Second is to be gracious and thankful to your parents for bringing you into this world and providing you with a home (that is if they did so, for all those of you who lived tortured lives at home, this one might not be applicable).
If your parents brought you up with whatever semblance of structure and provision, and they loved you as best they could, you owe them everything you have to honor their effort. They did the best they could as you are, or may likely do with your own children. Any parent knows it is not an easy task, and it doesn’t come with a playbook!
The third is to mentor someone else.
We all get to summit our own mountains in life not by the sheer effort of ourselves, but by embracing the support and guidance of so many along the way. Without mentorship, we would likely make too many mistakes to ever achieve our summit. As such, it is our responsibility to pay it back and to mentor others so they may likely summit as well.
The fourth is to learn and grow throughout your life.
Never stop learning, never stop challenging your thought processes, your habits, or your biases. Those who rest easy, those who take the easy route and do the same thing on different days, do not earn the right to prosper or succeed.
This life we have been given is a blank canvas and we can paint the picture, we can revise the picture, we can add to the picture, and modify it as we see fit until such time as we pass away so we should never be satisfied with its composition.
The last one is to make a contribution to this world.
When you give, you grow, when you take, you self-limit. Our life on this planet is about our contribution, it is all we can leave, and it is all that can represent what we have accomplished.
There will be people who take advantage of our contributions. There will be those who do not appreciate what we bring. That is not the point. We cannot live through another’s state of mind; we can only be in charge of our own state of mind, which must be driven by a sense of giving, not receiving.
Wake up every day and earn this life you have been given.
There is nothing trivial about the blessing of our life, never rest easy that it has been earned.