jfkEarlier this year, I pilgrimaged to the memorial and site where John F. Kennedy was shot.  I wanted to see for myself what they built to remember a guy who altered so many people with his incomplete but giant life, and the profound abruptness of his dramatic death.

jfkmemorial1I’d heard a bunch of negative stuff about it– that it was so minimal, so plain, ugly, they didn’t understand it, that it was too abstract and not fitting for a man who made such an impact upon the world.

I ran to the memorial early one morning from my hotel.  I was deeply moved by it- the simple and extraordinary design made me ponder for a long time what it all meant– just like JFK did and still does with so many of us– inspired us to ponder, to question things and be more.

I did understand how some people thought it was ugly, flawed– but I loved that part of it too, because just like me, he was a flawed man.  I’ve never met someone not.

I sat in the middle of the structure a while.. a homeless guy came along and we sat together first in silence, then in conversation about what it meant to each of us.  As I always find, the homeless guy was deeply observant and able to see far more than me… a survival skill that only living on the streets teaches you.

He claimed he’d been here 50 years ago when Kennedy was killed.  I didn’t question him, I’ve learned the facts don’t matter so much, I can just take what I need and leave the rest.

I asked him what it was like, how it felt.

“hollow.  I felt hollow.  like someone ripped my heart out and took what mattered to me and destroyed it.  It was the most helpless I’d ever felt”

We sat quite a while before I asked, how does it feel now?

“Divine. That man Kennedy put something inside of all of us– a seed of hope, creativity, commitment, devotion….he taught us to believe in, trust and see the good in ourselves and other people, but until he died, we didn’t realize what a gift he’d given all of us.  I think the abrupt dramatic ending of his life was a perfect way for us to really get the gift and use it to better the world.”

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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 
― John F. Kennedy