Americans can celebrate Memorial Day in any number of ways. For some of us, it's a very personal time to remember family and friends who died while serving in our country's military.
Others who haven't lost loved ones in military service, however, might not have the same connection — the most direct impact that Memorial Day has on us personally is marking a day off work and the beginning of summer. For those of us in this second group, it might be tough to know how to honor this holiday. We don't know what it's like to be in the armed forces or to have lost someone that way.
But we're not strangers to the idea of appreciating people for things that we haven't experienced ourselves. We've written a lot on this blog about how managers can show recognition to their employees, who are often doing work that managers have never done themselves. The principles of respectful and meaningful recognition can hold true even in a very different and more serious context like this one. Here are a few ideas:
1. Say "thank you"
It's simple, but that doesn't mean it's not important. At work, it can make our day to have our boss or coworker say thanks for our help.
Do you know someone who has served in our military? If not a friend or family member, perhaps a neighbor or colleague. A brief but genuine "Thank you for your service" may mean a lot to them.
2. Make a material gesture
We've given suggestions before on offering small gifts as a way to recognize great employees. They don't have to be huge or expensive; what matters is what they represent.
Similarly, on Memorial Day you can do things like fly the US flag or bring flowers to memorials. Consider making a donation to an organization that supports veterans. These material gestures can be meaningful if you do them thoughtfully.
3. Celebrate with the community
Sharing an employee's accomplishments with the team can be gratifying because they get to enjoy everyone's appreciation as a group. Our communities can be an important part of showing gratitude.
Seek out a Memorial Day parade or other event in your city. Attending these activities can show solidarity and recognition for veterans or loved ones of service members who have died. It can be powerful to see your community turn out to support you.
Many of us feel truly appreciated when our bosses invite our input. We don't have the same experiences and perspectives that company leaders do, but that doesn't mean they aren't a vital part of the organization.
Books, speeches, films — there's any number of ways that you can find out the stories of soldiers both living and dead. Hearing about their experiences and what they have to say can help us learn from this important part of our national community.
Regardless of our background, we can all take a moment to offer appreciation in a meaningful way on this holiday.