Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day... From Half a World Away

Memorial Day falls on the last Monday in May and is a day for Americans to remember all those who have died in service to our country.  It is a reminder that our freedom came with a price and a reminder to honour those who paid the ultimate price for that freedom.

It is also a three-day weekend and the unofficial beginning of summer. Most Americans barbecue and relax on the public holiday.  A few will attend services at the local cemetery and place flags on the graves of servicemen.

Freedom is not free, and most people around the world know this (In fact, at the risk of being offensive, I will go so far as to say that there are some who know it far better than Americans because they have fought and suffered so much more), but is it enough to just be thankful, to honour the men and women who fought and sometimes died for that freedom?  Or do we have a further responsibility?

Are we really free when others around the world are oppressed, suffering under evil regimes or abject poverty with no one advocating for them? Are we really free to turn a deaf ear to their cries, to let "someone else" fight for them, to only be concerned about our own freedom (or lack thereof)?  In other words, how self-centered can we be when it comes to freedom?

I won't answer that question for you.  I think the answer is different for each person, and I would never presume to make a blanket statement that applies to everyone.

I can only hear the words of Jesus echoing in my mind - "You give them something to eat."  I want to protest, say that I couldn't possibly...  I'm just one person; I don't have the skills, qualifications, or expertise...

...Yet here I am, halfway around the world in South Africa, wondering what it means to offer myself and all that I am to this country, wanting to be respectful of their many cultures and contribute to helping people reach their potential.  I do not wish to force my culture or Western mindset on anyone but rather desire to encourage and uplift people, give them hope, help them heal.  I want to see the Imago Dei in each person and treat them with the dignity that every human being deserves - from the richest to the poorest, from the educated to the not-educated, from the highest to the lowest, and even from the kindest to the cruelest.

It's the only way I know how to celebrate Memorial Day, by giving all that I am and have in response to the freedom that I inherited and grew up with.  I did nothing to earn that freedom but I certainly benefited from it, and I cannot in good conscience be selfish with that freedom - physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Yes, I am only one person, and not the best "specimen" of a person there is, but I can still do what I can do... offer my "five loaves and two fish" and trust that God can somehow use it.  That's all any of us can do.

1 comment:

Stel said...

I do love the insights that your share!