Earlier 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.
I’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.”
“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