Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

I Pledge Allegiance to…Whom?

We once shared our home with two large German shepherds whose instinct was to care for their people plus anyone who happened to be with us. We were members of a multigenerational weekly hiking group as we ambled and chatted along. Our dogs constantly roamed back and forth, from the front of the group to the rear, checking to make sure everyone was okay. Even when I walked alone with our shepherds through the mountains, as I often did, I never worried. I knew they would die for me, if necessary, without hesitation. That’s loyalty. One fell into a rushing stream by accident, and my husband squatted low, defying balance, to yank him out before he was washed over the waterfall. That was loyalty, too.

In our fast-paced, disconnected society, we don’t often wonder what our friends would do to save us. We don’t often ponder what we would do for them. A Lakota friend of mine performed a ceremony to make my husband and me coda. I have no idea if there is such a thing or if that spelling is correct, but when I asked her what it meant, she said we were bonded and she would die for us. Thank goodness that was never required.

Recently, we rented a Netflix DVD called THE TWELFTH MAN, based on the book JAN BAALSRUD AND THOSE WHO SAVED HIM by Tore Haug and Astrid Karlsen Scott. Taken from a true account, the Norwegian film begins with a WWII Norwegian resistance team of twelve men. Their mission fails, and all but one man are captured and put to death. The Gestapo are obsessed with finding the twelfth man to prevent his information from falling into enemy hands. But Jan is equally obsessed with surviving to reach neutral Sweden to make the sacrifice of his friends worthwhile. He is energized by his bond of loyalty.

After a barrage of spies-chased-by-crooked-coworkers movies, I didn’t think I could stomach more chasing and narrow escapes. However, this film came from reality and the reality was sobering. To begin, Jan swam a fjord in which the saltwater was below freezing. Later, he had to cut off his own finger to prevent the spread of gangrene from frostbite. The book title reminds us that regardless of how intrepid Jan Baalsrud was—and I couldn’t believe he could keep living through it all—he would never have survived if he hadn’t had plenty of help. Strangers nursed him, hid him, fed him, and planned an escape that was nearly impossible under the intense scrutiny of the Nazis. By the end of his ordeal, he was almost starved and incapable of much movement. He worried about those who had risked their lives for him. They did it out of loyalty to a free Norway and a brave man.

These days as people talk of betrayal and rampant self-interest, we can see how very precious loyalty is—not merely for those who are loyal to us but also for us who are challenged to be loyal to our best selves. Soldiers and law enforcement officers call themselves brotherhoods or sisterhoods to emphasize their reliance on one another. Loyalties win wars, build nations, and create families that aren’t necessarily born of blood. Loyalty to a higher purpose is a hallmark of maturity and active love. Who beyond family would I die to save? I wonder.

One comment on “I Pledge Allegiance to…Whom?

  1. Frances Sullivan
    November 2, 2019

    In my idealistic youth I brandished the title “pacificist” like a dull, blunt sword boasting that my convictions would not let me raise a finger against another. It was the reason behind me becoming a vegetarian, not wearing leather, and protesting wars. I’ve never been tested. In the spur of the moment, many are heroic but when loyalty is tested, many might fail. It’s a beautiful thing, the stuff of honour and integrity. Your post has got me thinking… xxx

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