Last Friday night, as I was chatting with each of my sons, preparing to pray with them, I talked to them about what had happened that day. That morning my children became U.S. citizens.
“There are billions of people all over the world who wish they lived in this country,” I told each of them.
“We have plenty of food in the frig and the pantry. We have a good roof over our heads. If we are in trouble we can call the police and not worry they might want money from us or they might be as much of a problem as the reason we called. That isn’t true for a lot of people.
“If we are hurt or not feeling well, help is only a three digit phone call away. In many places the only people who can get help are those who have enough money to get special privileges, and in those countries very few are in that position.”
Each boy looked at me, unsure how to respond, unsure what I was referring to. They cannot remember what their home country, Haiti, is like.
“I think many people in this country don’t appreciate what a privilege it is to live here,” I told them.
“I lot of people talk about gas prices, and politics, and our economy, but all that means very little when we compare ourselves to most of the world. We are very lucky to live in such a wealthy country, a place where there are people to protect us, help us, let us go to whatever church we want and vote any way we want.
“Now you are a U.S. citizen and that means an awful lot.”
I went on for a little while. I think the voting thing went pretty much over their heads.
Today is Memorial Day. It is primarily a day when folks remember those who have served in the military to protect our freedoms, but it is also used for us to visit the places where we have buried all our loved ones.
We have a memorial to the veterans of the Vietnam conflict. It’s the first thing one sees entering town from the west.
That Vietnam was difficult for us. Some folks are still upset about the reasons we were there.
We treated the soldiers of that war poorly. In the current conflict the American people are trying very hard to make it clear that whatever their feelings about the war in Iraq, we honor the men and women who serve.
That is why I think the memorial on the edge of town is a good thing. It is a memorial to the veterans, not the war. There was some valor in that war, regardless of the poklitics behind it. The helicopter is a medical rescue vehicle, not a weapon. It may be military, but it is at least a symbol of rescue.
We voted in President Nixon because he told us he had a secret plan to get us out of the war (though we didn’t know the plan was: “Everybody on the roof!”).
There is a great concern in our country that the current conflict might not be the right thing to do as well.
Still, it is Memorial Day and the flags are flying. The boy scouts are putting them on the streets, the Veterans of Foreign wars are doing the same at the cemetery.
There is an American flag on every veteran’s grave. There are too many of them.
At Zion Memorial Cemetery there are representatives from nearly every war, all the way back to the Civil war 150 years ago.
Brenda and I put flowers on Willy’s grave.
I don’t believe God is an American, but I do believe I am very fortunate to live in a place where I can worship Him without fear, or regard, to what others think.
I’m unsure what is best for us to do in the rest of the world, but I believe that as a people we really want to do what is best, what helps others. Perhaps not all our leaders have been motivated by that concern, but for even them, doing the right thing is a part of it.
Death is a part of life. Some of those we honor today died for others. Some simply died (such as Willy).
As I tried to explain that to my kids, I am grateful for those who sacrificed themselves for others, for me.
Most especially my Lord who sacrificed Himself that everyone, American, Venezuelan, Portuguese, Russian, all of us, that we may live not only forever, but live well in this world as well.
Happy Memorial Day.