This weekend, we’ll celebrate Memorial Day.  Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day traces its roots clear back to our own Civil War, the bloodiest event in our Nation’s history.   A couple years after the war concluded, General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

From that day forward, Decoration Day was held every May 30th, and communities and towns the nation over would decorate the graves of those laid to rest within their own cemeteries.  It wasn’t until 1968 (100 years later) that Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and changed the date to always be the fourth Monday in May, honoring our fallen from all of our wars: Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and now Afghanistan.

Memorial Day is one of those ‘quiet’ holidays where we don’t have much pomp and circumstance, and instead spend some time with those closest to us, remembering those who have gone before us.

It’s a time of reflection and introspection.

A couple weeks ago during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I asked a question along the lines of “Had I known then what I know now, I wish I would have _________” and asked folks to fill in the blank with their ‘lessons learned’ from all of this.  I was impressed by the overwhelming and thoughtful responses.

So, on this weekend of reflection and introspection, I present the aggregated and anonymized responses, loosely organized by common theme, with only minimal editing for clarity or grammar.


On family/friends:

  • “Time with family is priceless, and cannot be given, earned or wished back.”
  • “Marry your best friend (you never know when you’ll be isolated with them for a month straight.)”
  • “It’s so important to know and love our neighbors, especially the ones we live next to. All this increases the circle of influence on us and our kids; it’s great when a neighbor pitches in and helps take care of kids, for example.”
  • “I wish I had visited my son and wife in Texas who has a health issue before the virus mess.”
  • “I wish I would have not planned a 2-month trip across the USA in a Motor Home to include several public events in several States. 5 days in – had to turn around and come home due to everything being shut down. It was a retirement gift to ourselves, but we are glad we decided not to continue and came home when we did. “
  • “I think the most important lesson is that we are learning what is ESSENTIAL in our lives- how we treat our families, how we spend our time, what we are learning or need to learn to survive and who are the most important people to treat nicely!!”
  • “Time with our kids has been great. We’ve been well prepared for this!”
  • “I’ve learned that I trust my family friends and neighbors ???? times more than I trust my government!!!!”
  • “I wish we had not put off traveling to visit relatives.  We had planned to go in April and May.”
  • “My family is growing in so many ways. We need to spend more time together to be able to be better friends.”
  • “People are innately good. Although we have heard of individuals who have neglected the warnings, hundreds of millions of people (many would perceive themselves as low-risk to the Covid-19) have willingly given up patterns, paychecks, gatherings and luxuries to ensure the protection of others. Every society has bad apples, but times like these show that the overwhelming tendency of the human race is to do what is right.”

On professions/careers/jobs/businesses:

  • “If I’ve learned one thing, it’s only one non-essential employee per household.  I’m non-essential and I’m going to need an essential employee to pay the bills.”
  • “How about that being an “essential” employee is not necessarily a compliment?”
  • “Your business will do better if 1) you have been kind, honest, and good to your community 2) you adapt fast and are creative with your business model and services.”
  • “Challenges create opportunity to pivot. Many businesses are pivoting to be able to offer their offering in different ways. Which is awesome. Fraudsters are also taking advantage of the businesses working in spaces that they are unfamiliar with.”
  • “I have learned that I love working from home! I can get even more done at home than going into my office!”
  • “Our scientists and healthcare workers are more valuable than we ever thought.”
  • “Lead with empathy.”
  • “One of the big things that I have observed is the importance of trades. Education is valuable as you and I know, but skilled positions are still necessary and undervalued. It will be interesting to see if there is a surge or change in perspective regarding those types of jobs.”

On finances:

  • “I think it is a great reminder that people should, if possible, always try to keep a couple months’ worth of bill money tucked away in savings in case of a “pandemic” or emergency. Depending on the government to bail us out every time is not the right answer.”
  • “Put more of my extra income onto our mortgage and gotten closer to being out of debt.”
  • “Would have…tried to educate my staff better on financial things.”
  • “Been able to warn everyone to have some savings!”
  • “Had I known this was going to happen, I’m really glad I listened to Joel and paid down my 7% loan instead of putting it in the stock market. I still believe in the stock market and I feel it can be a really good thing…. but I have a lot more peace-of-mind now that the debt is paid and I don’t have another couple grand per month that I have to pay out…” (editor’s note from Joel: just a couple weeks prior to this, another person was encouraging this family to borrow from their home and every other source of cheap debt in order to invest more…I encouraged them to pay down their debt and leave plenty of cash for an eventual rainy day…)
  • “Sold earlier.”
  • “Emergency funds are boring but essential. Dave Ramsey is ridiculous for assuming 12% per year in stocks but none of that matters* because his approach to debt saved tons and tons of people through this. (*it does matter but not during pandemics.) And never forget to put lotion on your hands after scrubbing them for 2 minutes in the sink.”
  • “Shoulda bought Amazon stock 15 years ago.”
  • “I can live on less and save more.”

On being prepared for random Black-Swan events:

  • “Peace of mind is having provisions for a period of time at home in food storage along with living in a great community that supports each other.”
  • “I was already prepared. I could stay in my house for 3 months without having to go out. So, lesson learned is preparing for a natural disaster pays off when it finally happens. Lol.”
  • “For being the greatest nation in all of the land…we’ve got a lot of work to do. Now is a good time to be a hunter with a full freezer full of wild meat.”
  • “Invested more than month of food storage – have a year’s worth.”
  • “Assembled a large tank of water (on my to do list for months now).”
  • “Personally, would have stocked up better before the rush, would have bought a bunch of honey-do supplies.”
  • “Off the top off my head we haven’t paid much attention to food storage over the years. That was obviously a big mistake. We had almost run out of toilet paper by the time I realized there was a shortage.”
  • “This has pushed me harder to becoming self-sufficient and living off my own land.”
  • “I personally feel like not enough people prepare for something like this and it’s been a good eye-opener as far as that goes. Being a “prepper” isn’t so bad after all. And lastly, buy more guns than you do toilet paper ;)”

On the little things in life:

  • “I wish I would have taken out more books from the library.”
  • “Should have gotten a couple chocolate Easter bunnies!  Maybe my grandson will send me one!”
  • “I honestly can’t believe how clear the skies are in the major cities.”
  • “Old socks and t-shirts can be substituted for toilet paper but are problematic when flushed….”
  • “Why does my garbage can have so much less garbage in it when we are all stuck in the house all day every day?”

On parents suddenly becoming schoolteachers:

  • “I wish I would have kept my math skills up. I’ve forgotten everything I learned from high school and college math classes and now I can’t help my kids with their math schoolwork. I was LOVING life!!!! Everything was going good until online school started. It’s kicking our butts!! ???? We have too much other stuff to do. Keeping them focused is hard.”
  • “Teachers don’t get paid enough. We miss our teachers and the classroom.”
  • “Teachers deserve a raise! I’m not a drinker, but lately I’ve been contemplating becoming an alcoholic. ????

On one’s self:

  • “For equal money, I’d have a larger house in a less attractive area than an apartment in a metropolis.”
  • “I think it’s simple really, don’t take anything for granted.  Just because you have it today doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have it tomorrow.”
  • “It’s interesting that in trying to avoid illness I’m becoming healthier. Without all the running around, I’m cooking, I’m exercising, I’m sleeping, and spending time with my family. Thanks COVID.”
  • “What I wish….that I wouldn’t have been hard on myself for being the color yellow, the party personality. When the world came to a halt, the same people I thought were judging me are the people that are reaching out to me for stability and advice.”
  • “Don’t let the media run your life!”
  • “I know it sounds cliché, but it has proven time and time again in the last 8 weeks to be the most sound lesson I’ve relearned for myself, my family and my businesses. Choose the correct leader to follow and you will always be confidently led down a consistent, progressive path.”
  • “I think for me the biggest thing I’ve enjoyed from this circumstance is this has slowed me down enough to see more clearly my priorities. It has simplified my life and made more clear the difference between wants and needs. My family is everything to me and although we were moderately prepared temporally I would like to be more prepared for future events…When needs are met it is easier to focus on other aspects of life. We have what we need right in our core little family. Without much on sports I am not distracted as much, taking away from the laser-focus I have for my family.”
  • “Had I known what was going to happen, I wish I had been more in control of my emotions and reactions.  To have my income abruptly stopped was a huge stress and disruption. It took away part of my purpose and self-worth in life. I honestly freaked out a couple times being quarantined to my house and not going to work. My dear wife had to calm me down and reassure me everything would work out.  But this pandemic has also taught me to look inward and at the blessings I already have now like my wonderful marriage, our kids, health and a paid off home and business.  This crisis has renewed my appreciation for my dear wife and children. Also, my true hope in loving God and His infinite wisdom.  He preaches an often silent but most effective sermon to his children.  Calling them out of their worldly and selfish ways.  I so wish I could have stepped back, realized I had cash savings, low debt, and plenty of resources to weather a downturn lasting up to a year.  This will happen again soon and this time I will be more prepared to listen to its lesson while enjoying the closer companionship of my family.” 

Enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend —

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