As I reflected upon Memorial Day this year, without a parade down Main Street, a festival or a family dinner, I noticed an interesting parallel. Memorial Day is the day we remember and honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and for the rights and freedoms of the oppressed and vulnerable around the world.
Some of these men and women volunteered for service and some of them did not. But serve they did. They served bravely and honorably. Some fought on the front lines. Many more served in a supportive role. Many believed in the cause they fought for, and sadly some did not. But, loyal to their country and to their authority figures, they fought together against a common enemy. Whether they felt strong or weak, brave or frightened they submitted, they fought the enemy, and they sacrificed more than you and I can imagine. And for that, we are grateful. We have reaped the benefits.
Well here comes the parallel…
We are in a time of war right now. A war against a common enemy…Covid 19. We have healthcare workers on the front lines fighting for us. Some of them have given their lives in the battle. The rest of us are serving in a more supportive role. Are we serving faithfully? Are we submitting to authority figures who understand pandemics and how the disease is spread? Do we believe in the cause? Are we volunteers to the fight or have we been drafted against our will?
Whatever our belief or position, may we each humble ourselves in this war. May we go into battle with strength and courage…the strength of character to delay our deep longing for close, social contact and the courage to look odd and feel uncomfortable wearing a mask.
We may not be afraid for our own health, but may we fight for the health of each other. May we fight for the rights of the oppressed and the vulnerable (those with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions) to go to the grocery story, the pharmacy or on a walk in their own neighborhood.
We are Americans and that means something special. In 2018 Grinnell College commissioned a national poll on what it means to be an American. The majority of respondents (90%) said being an American means treating people equally, followed by taking personal responsiblity for one’s action (88%).
Whether you believe that Covid 19 is a serious threat to your health and/or the health of your neighbor, it seems to me that being an American means we look out for each other. We don’t disregard the warnings of the experts (and unless they have a degree in epidemiology they are not an expert). Being an American means we take responsiblity for our actions and minimize the risk of transmitting the disease to someone who is vulnerable.
As a follower of Jesus, I am asked to be even more humble. Jesus regularly gave of himself to the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. He demonstrated sacrificial love all of his ministry culminating with the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. In the “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 it says, “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.”
On this Memorial Day, we are all the beneficiaries of our veterans who served well and gave all. May we honor their great sacrifice by paying it forward. Perhaps one day, when the pandemic is over, we can have a memorial day of sorts. A day when your sacrifice and mine are remembered by those who are still here to say “Thank You!”