Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest We Forget … or Have We Forgotten Already?

It’s a damp, cool , overcast day in Fort Saskatchewan, a small town just outside of of Edmonton and I’m listening to the bugler play “The Last Post”.

We have gathered to remember those who have made or will make the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to experience the freedoms that we cherish ….. so that we may experience the freedoms we think WE have earned and deserve. 

“We have earned and deserve” - there’s an interesting thought.

And so while the men and women who serve do so without asking anything of us, the least we can do is remember and honor their sacrifice.

Lest we forget.

Lest we forget that as we enjoy the comforts of our lifestyle, there are others who have foregone such comforts. 

These are the men and women who fought in the trenches with nothing to keep them warm in the middle of a bitterly cold winter other than pieces of wool clothing when we complain that our favorite “uber deluxe coat” is not available in that shade of blue we wanted.

These are the people who drive into harm’s way, every mile having the potential to produce the mine or IED that will take their lives in an instant or leave them maimed for life while we sit consumed in anger that traffic is not moving as fast as we would like.  No one is shooting at us as we sit in traffic either.

These are the men and women who suffered through little or no food when supply lines were choked off while we consume in excess quantities or complain that “such and such a meal is not to my liking and I want the restaurant to remake it”, afterwards spending days telling everyone about the lousy experience we had.  The restaurant is also not likely to kill us with typhus, cholera or the plethora of other diseases that these people dealt with daily.

These are the people who stared at the beaches of Normandy as they approached on the morning of June 6, 1944 and realized what was before them or stared at the cliffs of Dieppe and girded their mind in preparation for their assault while we complain that the time-share that we want on some beach in Hawaii is not available on the one weekend that would really make us happy.

In a world of comfort, we sometimes visualize things that make us unhappy and yet all of these things pale in comparison to the things that the men and women who serve and sacrifice have faced and will continue to face.

I can’t help but think that surely they didn’t make these sacrifices so that we would have the freedom to complain about how our Life is lacking. 

It is true that they made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live Life as we choose.  They make no demands or attach stipulations on how we live our lives.  But are our choices the most respectful, honorable ones we could be making as an expression of our gratitude?

Imagine a scenario where your child is standing in the middle of a highway and suddenly you see a large truck bearing down on them.  Your child is transfixed in fear, you are unable to get to them in time and you know you are about to watch your child die.  Suddenly, out of the blue, someone rushes past you, dives towards the child and they both roll to safety just as the truck roars by.  You thank them profusely and the stranger is humble and gracious in receiving your gratitude, insisting that it “was nothing” or it was “the right thing to do”.

You are indebted to that person for the rest of your Life and with great reason.  Every day that you experience the love of your child, you are reminded of the sacrifice a complete stranger was willing to make.  They put themselves on the line for you, did so without asking “what’s in it for me” and without subsequently demanding a “reward”.

By the same token, the men and women who serve do this every day and have done so for generations.  The fact that we don’t necessarily see them in action every day shouldn’t be an excuse to forget the sacrifices they have made.

When I think that someone whom I will never meet is willing to sacrifice their Life so that I may live mine, that is humbling beyond description.

What makes my Life so worthy that they would do this?

I guess it depends on what I do with it, doesn’t it?

Do I make my Life something that says that their sacrifice wasn’t for naught?

It depends on whether I choose to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to make sure that my Life is worthy of that sacrifice.

Because if I don’t remember their sacrifice and don’t do something to honor that sacrifice, then their sacrifice is in vain … and the greatest insult to the men and women who serve.

So when we have something to complain about, maybe we should pause and reflect on what complete strangers were and are willing to do for us.

We haven’t earned a Life of abundance and opportunity.

They earned it for us. 

All they ask is that we use the opportunity to live our Life to its maximum potential and to be grateful for opportunity to do so.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?

And so today, we are called to remember the tremendous gift that they have given us.

But we shouldn’t limit the expression of gratitude to just today.  It is one we should express every day.

Lest we forget.

In service and servanthood.


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