“Earn this…earn it”. In the film Saving Private Ryan, these are the dying words of Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, to the young Ryan – as Miller and a number of his men have just laid down their lives to save him. At the film’s conclusion, an old Ryan stands at Miller’s grave and reflects, “I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough.”
In fact, Miller’s is a powerful injunction to all of us, even if we are not as acutely conscious of the sacrifices which have been made to enable us to be here. It is for every one of us to try to “earn it” by living the best life that we can. And that’s not just about honouring a debt to others; it’s about honouring and respecting ourselves, and celebrating the fulness and richness of all that we can be.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges of living life to the full is remembering to do so even in the quiet moments, those sleepy Wednesday afternoons when we think no one is watching, or that quiet Sunday evening in front of the TV. I’m not suggesting that we have to fill every waking moment with profundity or philosophical musings. Far from it. Sometimes it’s just a question of being aware of oneself in this moment of time, and loving that moment for whatever it is.
I was struck by the importance of seemingly unimportant moments after an art market I attended last weekend, where I was selling some of my images. A young couple in their 20s, who were just setting up house together, bought three of my pictures with which to decorate their new home. I told my partner Gareth about this later in the day, and about how touched I was to be able to contribute to their new life together, albeit in a very small way.
Gareth’s reply rather stopped me in my tracks. He pointed out that, as I have now sold a large number of images to people in the UK and beyond, my work is part of people’s lives in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. I’d never thought of it like that, and it was an exciting, awe-inspiring and rather humbling thought.
But of course it shouldn’t be a surprise. All of us, all the time, are touching other people’s lives in ways we will never fully comprehend. The supportive word to a distressed colleague; the person you helped with their luggage on your morning commute; the advice to a friend which you forgot you even gave, but which helped them look at a problem in a new way.
This might sound like something to be overwhelmed by, but in fact I think it is something to celebrate. It asks us to live every moment of our lives to the best that we can, to learn the most that we can and to give the most that we can with each passing day.
So, “earn it”…. these are wise words for us all.