A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. Proverbs 22, verse 9.
Welcome to the end of May after a long Memorial Day holiday. I was away with my family over the weekend, so I took Monday off from writing these, only to come back to reading this verse and discovering that I think it’s a great verse to describe Memorial Day.
You see, storing up food for emergencies is a wise and prudent thing to do. That’s obviously what the verse is talking about. It is generous necessity (and necessary generosity) to share what you have when disaster strikes, when poverty reigns, or when others are in need; ask the people hit by tornados this month about generosity and blessings. The people who help others in crisis exemplify what practical faith is and why it is such a beautiful thing. Yet yesterday was a day to remember something far more generous. On Decoration Day we should remember how a generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his life with his countrymen. Forgive me if I take a liberty with the verse because I think it’s a good thing to remember our fallen war dead by doing so.
I did my time in uniform and finished my term intact; most people do. I haven’t known many families who lost members or friends in war, but I have known a few. I used to date a girl whose uncle died a quarter century before she was even born, dying over Germany in World War II. I knew people in high school whose brothers and fathers died in Vietnam. My dad didn’t die in war, but he did die because of one. It’s a tragic honor to lose family in service to country, and if I could have my way, I’d gladly go back in time to prevent the circumstances that exposed my father to Saddam’s poisons from which one day he would die. If you ask anyone who has lost family in war, my guess is that they would say something similar. We can’t change those circumstances, though. Life it what it is, choices are what they are, and God is still in and around both of those.
After those choices, we turn back to God and see that He blesses us through the people who selflessly give up their own lives so others might live. It is easy to see such people are heroes. It’s not always so easy to remember that they are common people, not super-heroes. They aren’t Thor, the Green Lantern or Superman: they are you, me, and our friends and family. One day per year to recognize their sacrifice isn’t much to ask. It upsets me that, especially in war time, we as a society have turned away from remembering the heroes who died for us. I’m pretty jingoistic when it comes to all things military, especially during war time. Personally, I think the best our nation – any nation – has to offer the world are the men and women who volunteer to protect and defend in the armed forces, giving themselves as the first line of defense in a cruel world. When we as a country forget what they did, we will lose part of our soul.
Especially since they died to protect liberty so that other heroes could go on and help others in need. So that others could be blessed and they could be a blessing to strangers. The Red Cross workers, the church workers, the neighbors, and the family members who pitch in and share when others are in need all wear a different badge of heroism than a fallen soldier, but it is heroism and goodness all the same. Their sacrifice is different but just as crucial if we as a society are to endure.
Now that the summer is officially underway, I’m rested, sunburned, and ready to get back to work. If you have a loved one who has perished in service, thank you for what you’ve given so that we as a nation can go on. Thank you so much, and please know how blessed we all are for what they did. Please know that a grateful people do remember and they will not have gone on in vain. You live with the knowledge of what they did; we all live because of what they did. Thus, for all of us, every day is Memorial Day.