There seem to be certain things in this world that have a gravitational pull to them.

Near the top of that list are inspirational people and inspirational stories. I’ve found that very few things resonate more with me than the inspirational. Just recently, I was reading a story about a World War II Veteran. Like any good story will do, it caused me to began pondering about my own life through the lens of the main character in the book and what he’d accomplished. I gazed out the window of my office, time seemingly standing still, and I thought about the fact that I never took the opportunity to serve our country through the Armed Forces, and that the window to realistically do so has now likely closed for me. I thought about how these brave women and men who serve our country in the Armed Forces know the true meaning of sacrifice and service, and about the idea of using your life for the betterment of others.

While still in reflection mode, I thought about my family members who served. I had one grandpa serve our country during World War II. I had another grandpa who served during the Korean War, a step grandfather who also served during World War II, my father in-law served just prior to Vietnam, and my dad served at the end of Vietnam. All five men were or are very different, but all five men also share at least three similar traits. They were courageous, they were born leaders, and they still serve as an inspiration for me.

I often think about those four men, as well as the countless men and women that served alongside them, as well as before and after, all in the name of the United States of America. And while the thought fills me with gratitude toward our Veterans and all that they’ve given, it also serves as an incredible inspiration. Because, while those of us who haven’t served may never understand the true sacrifice and level of servant leadership required to do so, we do all have our own opportunities to make a difference for our great country.

I find it to be rather appropriate that the district, the City of Monticello and CentraCare - Monticello, will be celebrating Kindness Appreciation Week from Nov. 11 to 15, which is the same week as Veterans Day. The reasons I find it appropriate are two-fold. 

First and foremost, our Veterans deserve all of the kindness and respect that we have to offer as humans and as a community. For their service, selflessness, sacrifice, and more, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to treat them the way they deserve and that we pass that message of kindness and respect to our younger generations. 

Secondly, I think that continuing to create a world of kindness and respectful dialogue, a world that builds people up rather than tears them down, is one of the biggest fights that we currently face as a country.

It is not the same fight that our forefathers faced, nor the same that some of our peers, stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and various other locations around the globe, face now. But, it is a battle that we can all join. It is a cause worth fighting for. And it’s something that will allow us to continue to create a world that my grandpas, my father-in-law, and my dad, as well as so many others, would’ve been or would be proud to fight for. 

It’s also our chance to be inspirational, if in a different way than our brilliantly brave Veterans. Because kindness has a gravitational pull, too. And, as I’ve shared before, I believe that when we use kindness to inspire, there are no bounds to what we can accomplish. When we lead with kindness, especially those of us in the public eye, we inspire others to do the same. When we do it as adults, we inspire kids to do the same. And when we show respect to all humans, especially our Veterans on this upcoming special day, we inspire those that look up to us and walk alongside of us, to do the same.

This Veterans Day, I ask you, shower our service men and women, past and present, with respect, kindness and appreciation they have earned. Then, use their service as inspiration to help make yourself a leader in the fight for a cause that’s close to your soul. For me, and for our district, that’s kindness. I don’t believe we can ever fully repay the debt we owe to our country’s Veterans, but I believe that working every day to make the world a better place is a good start. 

So, let me start the kindness conversation with some appreciation of my own.

In closing, I stand up to thank you, Veterans. I pause and thank all who read this article.  And I encourage the community to join us November 11th-15th for Kindness Appreciation Week as we continue to work together to make Monticello the epicenter of kindness in the United States and the world. Lastly, the Veterans deserve this tribute today, but there are others who I will circleback to in future writings. I look forward to highlighting the diversity of our community and some of our new school endeavors to serve ALL.

Eric Olson is the superintendent of the Monticello School District.

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