I recently attended the wake and funeral of a friend who was a remarkable father, husband, son, son-in-law, and friend. He was also a Fireman for 37 years. Whether it was at his house or the firehouse, he dedicated his life to helping and serving others and he always seemed to do it with a smile.
During the wake, over a hundred active and retired fire personnel in full uniform got in a single-file line. One by one, they walked past the casket, stopping briefly to salute their friend and fellow firefighter. Firemen call this process a walk-through and I have never experienced a more moving tribute to a life.
During the funeral procession, we drove by a Fire Station on the way to the cemetery. The picture above is of the firemen holding their salute until the last car passed their firehouse.
While I have seen many individuals salute over the years, I never knew how the tradition got started. As it turns out, no one really knows the origins of the salute but experts suggest two theories. One dates back to the early Roman Empire. During those times, assassinations were common, so individuals would greet high-ranking officials by raising their right hand to show respect and reveal their weapon hand was “dagger-free.” Another point of view is that the salute was born in Medieval Times. When Knights in shining armor happened to cross paths, they raised their right “sword” hand to their helmet to lift their visors and reveal their identity. This gesture demonstrated the Knight was traveling as a friend, not a fighter.
When or why saluting began is not important. What does matter is that when a firefighter or military personnel salutes a colleague, it creates positive emotions for the individuals saluting and everyone who witnesses the event. You may never be in the position to formally raise your hand to your forehead and salute someone, but I do think it would be beneficial for you to start doing something daily to demonstrate your respect for the co-workers, clients, family members, and friends who cross your path.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” I think the same philosophy holds true when it comes to planting the seeds of respect in the people you admire.
I encourage you to pick one person who has been a positive influence in your life and do something today to demonstrate your respect for that individual. Write a letter, make a phone call, or arrange for a face-to-face visit. I know you may be thinking you don’t have time today. I also know tomorrow will be no different. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say or try to find the right time to say it. Just do it. A sincere salute, made in minutes, is way more valuable than a perfect message that never gets delivered.
Remember, you have no guarantee that the person you want to salute today will be around to salute you back tomorrow.
Lead The Positive Way Today! Bill Durkin