Having just returned from Europe for a three week trip, I have come to appreciate the fact that I am an American. The beaches of Normandy had a huge impact on me. My nine year old niece and I, accompanied by my parents, learned of the fate of over 4,300 young men who gave their lives, on the first day of D-Day alone, for the freedom of France, England, and ultimately the world. The German government had no bounds-they took what was not theirs and wreaked havoc upon Europe. As an American of German descent, I am still baffled by the fact that all of my relatives in Germany have no accountability for what happened; no memory of what occurred. Supposedly, none of their grandparents, uncles, or cousins were in the war. Really? They are a country with amnesia.
Walking through the cathedral of Rouen, France, I was shocked to see plain glass where stained glass should appear. My niece and I noticed a staircase that went to a blocked up door. Walking outside, we saw that scaffolding encased a large part of the cathedral’s main belltower, and another smaller belltower appeared as through it had been burned to bits as recently as yesterday. Furthermore, a place where a wing of the cathedral once stood, stood no more. This beautiful building, partially destroyed in WW2, still had not been fully restored. The remnants of fire my niece and I viewed, had occurred over 75 years ago. A trip nearby took me to the town of Le Havre, where cinder block building littered the city, with no architecture of historical significance to be seen. My mother informed me that the city had been bombed in WW2, and 2,000 civilians had died. With no war reparations from Germany, rebuilding of the city fell on the city fathers, already beaten down by the perils of war.
Viewing the pain and suffering by the French, and the perils of rebuilding they still face, I reflected upon my own struggles. My anxieties to please others; the challenges of having business partners and the fallout of when partnerships end; my desire to make sure that clients are always happy and taken care of, and that everything in my office runs smoothly. I came to the conclusion long ago that one can not always please others, but, for me, the desire to reach perfection never ends, despite its unattainability. Nevertheless, the challenges and anxieties I have faced, and that my company have faced, are nothing, when faced with the calamity of WWII and the devastation wreaked upon the continent of Europe. My daily issues absolutely pale in comparison. As my father said, “This country (France) will not truly be rebuilt until my
grandchildren have grandchildren.” I also learned that the French do not take what we did for them for granted. My niece and I, as well as my parents, were treated like royalty in the region of Normandy, where the restaurants proudly state on their windows, ‘Welcome our liberators!”
Arriving back in the office today, I have a renewed look on life and business. We live in America, where we have everything we could ever want-but most importantly, we have peace. We don’t have to rebuild our country after the perils of war. We only need to rebuild ourselves. To make ourselves better, stronger, and perhaps more compassionate toward others. We have it all. Let’s take advantage of this beautiful gift that is America.