THE ROYAL ENGAGEMENT of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markel has hit the news!
You know this columnist has been waiting for this announcement since news of the relationship was made public last year. Because of the announcement, commentary on the original people’s princess, Princess Diana, begins again. This year, being the 20th anniversary of her fatal car crash, lots of commentary about her life and memorials have been made. Given that Ms. Markle is an American, the concept of the people’s princess is again evident. Over these last few months of anticipation, I considered many of the simple lessons of Princess Diana‘s life. These five things specifically came to mind.
Visit people in the hospital. When my dad was sick this past summer, it was so helpful and refreshing to have family and friends come by for visits. Some would stay for several hours so I could work or go home; others stayed just a half hour to break up the monotony of the hospital. I’m either case, the visit was special and needed and appreciated.
Years ago when I was in the hospital for a femur fracture, I had many visitors and I loved every minute of the visits, however brief. I learned then and was reminded again this past summer that misery does love company. So, if you know someone is sick in the hospital (and can handle visitors), go. Even if you go for just for a few minutes. Your presence will give some relief to the boredom of a hospital and a needed break for your friends or family.
Teach your kids about a world beyond your own. Princess Diana did this very well, exposing her sons to the homeless population and teaching and showing them other cultures and experiences. Both Princes have continued to try to have “normal” experiences in their adult lives, serving as active military and learning practical skills.
One of my favorite photos of the late princess is of her with her sons on a water flume ride at an amusement park. They are all soaking wet and laughing heartily. That isn’t the kind of experience you would expect from a future monarch, but it was one example of how Diana taught her kids about life beyond their immediate and expected surroundings.
The world is a big place and being different is not always wrong (sometimes it is). But show your children other cultures. As a kid, my parents loved a good summer family vacation. One particular trip, we visited Pennsylvania and experienced some parts of the Amish Dutch community. I was fascinated by a world without electricity. I think about that community every time the power goes out. I have read books and visited again as an adult, seeking understanding of a society that is foreign to me. I’m sure I could stretch myself further, seeking understanding of a culture that is more foreign to my own. Instead of learning about cultures without hair dryers and microwaves I should probably visit places without clean water. I’m not quite ready to face that fear yet, but knowing that world is out there is a step in the right direction.
Do things that scare you. Princess Diana hugged AIDS patients at a time when the disease was very new (and scary) for the rest of the world. She stood up for herself against the media. She embraced a life outside of anything she had ever known twice – once becoming a princess and once again when she left the monarchy. I don’t live in the public eye and I’m trapped by fear constantly. I am often afraid to try new things. But like the Princess showed us, being afraid does not change the status quo.
Know yourself before you marry anyone else. Diana married too young. She was barely out of her teens after having a protected, naive upbringing. She was embarking on a marriage that brought a career with it for an intense, prestigious “institution”, the monarchy. I would say that her sons have (hopefully) been wiser, waiting until they were in their 30’s before making the commitment to marry. They have each selected women who were also more mature, both in age and in personality. Prince William’s wife Catherine had many years to learn the responsibilities and benefits that a royal position would hold. It seems Ms. Markle is also very confident and seems well-guided, by her prince and also by her own intelligence and poise. Princess Diana was not as mature when she married and found herself awkwardly navigating unfamiliar waters. I meet brides every day. I often pray they know themselves well, particularly if they are marrying husbands with strong, dominant careers or where a geographic move is imminent after the wedding. Marriage should not be rushed into, and husbands and wives should certainly be confident with who they are before trying to share themselves. I’m not saying younger couples are at a disadvantage just so long as they know themselves well.
Wear your seatbelt. I think we can all agree we wish we could know what else Princess Diana could have taught us if she hadn’t died in the car accident (don’t get me started on the conspiracy theories – that’s a column for another day). So, please, wear your seatbelt.