Lessons From Hawkeye

He was a comedic hero in the middle of a war where the atrocities and the ugliness of what man could do to each other was seen constantly. He was a caring soul but also quick to throw verbal punches. He cared little for authority and showed a bare minimum (if any) of decorum to those above him that acted foolishly.

I’m talking about the lovable character Dr Hawkeye Pierce from the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H played by Alan Alda. This award winning series is the latest on my binge list as I try to avoid crowds by hermiting inside my home.

Now don’t be fooled to think this character is a beacon for us to completely imitate, for Hawkeye was also a misogynist who saw nurses as objects to fill his lonely nights, a social drinker that was destroying his liver way beyond the norm, and a self centered rebel who often demonstrated his disdain for others with cruel mockery and an unchecked verbal onslaught of disrespect. But it was written in the 70s and the setting was a war zone.

So as I watch this series, taking in the way his character is developed over 12 seasons and looking for the positive in the role Hawkeye played in the series, I do see some endearing traits from which I could try to do better at in my own life. So what are these lessons …

— Never lose your sense of humor. War, brutality, ignorance of others, the worst of conditions, stress and more rarely made Hawkeye lose his sense of humor. Witty come backs in the OR, pranks on his colleagues, and planning fun and oddball events remind us to not take life too serious, to enjoy the moment, and to use humor to lift the spirits of those going through tough times.

I often think I might have the spiritual gift of humor, but that may be more in my mind. I am probably less Robin Williams of Good Morning, Vietnam and more Robin Williams of Good Will Hunting.

He made the best use of his skills wherever he was. Stationed near the front in a war zone, surrounded by conditions that tears at your soul, and knowing you could do so much better elsewhere … yet he kept helping people, he did his job, and cared less about the accolades of others than he did about the self assurance of knowing he was making a difference.

He saw that he wasn’t stuck, he was stationed.

— He stood up for what he believed in. He cared for the injured from both sides of the war. He didn’t let military politics stop him from doing what was right. He would challenge decisions he thought was wrong.

— He believed in life. His profession, his calling, his skills … were about saving lives. And this is is also seen in his view on guns. You 2A People, don’t get mad here. I’m just talking about how Hawkeye showed he believed in life.

He believed in his friends. From Trapper to BJ. There is Radar and Margaret. His care and sacrifice for them is powerful.

He believed in marriage. Yea, he was a womanizer, a cad at times, and not the highest of moral characters in his view of purity before one gets married … but he never crossed that line with a married woman. There was a respect for the institution. It may seem it of place with his lose moral character, but it is worth noting.

— He led by example. Always working hard in the OR. He also showed you don’t have to be in charge to be a leader. His was a few people down on the authority totem pole, but many looked to him for morale and direction.

You don’t have to be in charge to be a leader

– me

So to the writers that gave us the character Hawkeye, thank you.

What are people getting from your life? They are watching you know!

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