Remember those who died for our freedoms
Here we are, celebrating the first three-day weekend of the summer. Picnics, barbecues, ball games, open-air concerts and warm weather festivities. At what point did Americans forget the real meaning of Memorial Day? When did it become no more than a cheeseburger holiday?
Did you know the roots of Memorial Day go back to the Civil War, when graves of fallen soldiers were decorated with flowers? It was called Decoration Day back then. In 1971, Congress fixed the holiday to fall yearly on the last Monday in May. Over the decades, the day has been meant to be a memorial to members of the Armed Forces who have given their lives so we might enjoy our freedoms.
Let's be honest, how many of us attend Memorial Day services or parades? In gratitude have we taken time out from our plans to pay our respects?
When I'm at the cemetery to tend my parents' graves at this time of year, I often see dozens of volunteers, moving from row to row, placing small American flags on the graves of veterans. Too often, you'll see those flags waving sadly above the weeds of long years of neglect. Obviously, no one has been there recently to pay their respect.
It gives one a moment of pause to consider how much we've been given when we, ourselves, have given so little. In my comfortable home in a quiet little neighborhood, I sacrifice little. I don't worry about invading hordes or bombs dropping on my head from the skies. I've come to enjoy my freedom as a right rather than a privilege born of the sacrifice of generations of men and women who fought for me. This country has been shaped and molded on the backs of those who so believed in this country, they were ready to lay down their lives.
The inscription on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia reads: "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants," taken from Leviticus 25:10. This is at the heart of the mission of those who so readily give of themselves.
Regardless of one's politics – whether you are a hawk or a dove – soldiers deserve our respect, especially those who have given their lives for us and our families. They deserve our respect, as well as our attention, no matter how brief, if only on this one day of the year.
In my mind, I see an analogy with Jesus. Jesus didn't have to die on the cross. He didn't have to step up to the plate on our behalf. But he did. It was brave; it was courageous; it was an act of love. And in that act of love, he sacrificed his life on our behalf. How often do we take that for granted, too?
Our military men and women never ask for much, perhaps only to be remembered at times. So why not start a new tradition in your family or neighborhood? It will only take a minute of your time, literally.
Observe the National Moment of Remembrance. At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day (local time wherever you are), put down your plates, the balls and bats, shut off the radio, and bow your head for sixty seconds in a moment of silence and gratitude.
Jesus will be happy you did...and so will you.