I have a terrible memory.
It seems that no matter how hard I try to remember them, names, addresses, and dates escape me, and tasks I need to do just vanish from my mind. I have the inconvenient habit of walking into rooms, forgetting why I came in, and having to backtrack in an attempt to recall what I needed to do there.
Can you relate? It tends to complicate things, doesn’t it?
However, as annoying as it is to forget the day-to-day tasks, I’ve found that they’re not the worst things to misplace.
The very worst things to forget are the things that carry special meaning.
These can still be dates, times, names, places…anything that holds particular meaning to you. Anything that, when forgotten, goes beyond the annoyance of being unable to recall something, and actually makes us emotional.
A family recipe. A friend’s birthday. The name of a mentor from years past.
This probably sounds obvious. It kind of is. But I was reminded of it as I looked over my calendar and saw that Veterans Day is this Wednesday.
Veterans Day tends to slip my mind. I’m so bad at keeping track of holidays and special dates that they always seem to catch me by surprise. Thankfully, there are calendars and people with better memories to remind me.
And though I’d hate to miss it, forgetting the day itself would not hamper my life in too significant a way.
What would is forgetting what – or who – the day stands for.
It’s so easy to forget that people who have served are all around us. People who have sacrificed, suffered, and strove for our benefit. Men and women who’ve given their time and tears and much, much more to work for the freedom we so often take for granted.
Speaking from my own experience, the sacrifices of veterans tend to be forgotten in the buzz of everyday life. Not purposely, but forgotten all the same. Overlooked. When we’re reminded of it, like on a holiday such as Veterans Day, we truly are grateful. We remember all that they’ve done and are amazed. But soon enough our best intentions are pushed aside again.
That makes me emotional.
There are veterans in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods that aren’t thanked daily for their service, and that burdens me. I can’t possibly imagine everything they’ve gone through, but the fraction of things I’ve heard about, or read about, or seen on the news breaks my heart.
Has someone ever sacrificed something for you? Maybe it was their time, a meal, or an opportunity. Whatever it was, if it was heartfelt, it probably meant a lot.
Receiving a gift that cost someone to give is very meaningful. Those are the gifts we tend to remember, or at least try hard to remember. We’re very grateful and it feels natural to shower that person with thanks. As long as we remember what they’ve done for us, we can’t help but continue to be grateful for them. To try and serve them in return.
Can’t we do the same for our veterans?
Unlike Memorial Day, which is also a day to remember those who have served, but tends to focus more on those who have passed on, Veterans Day is an opportunity to remember and voice our thanks to those who have served and are still present around us.
When I was younger, I knew two people who’d served in war. My grandpa and my uncle. This knowledge amazed me. I thought of them as heroes. Their sacrifice, their strength, and their love for the people they fought for has always inspired me. I don’t think they realize how much I’ve looked up to them over the years.
None of that has changed. I’m still awed by their courage and selflessness. But with every year that passes, I become aware of more and more people who have served. It shocks me how many people have fought in wars. I never thought there were so many veterans in my own town.
These heroes are all around us, often where we least expect them. In our grocery stores, schools, churches, and restaurants. In massive cities and tiny towns. In our circles of close friends and our webs of acquaintances.
They’re living their lives humbly, seldom admitting how much they’ve had to go through. How much they’ve suffered for a cause they believed in. A cause they believed in enough to be willing to give whatever it took to uphold it – even if that would mean their very lives.
That kind of sacrifice takes my breath away. As much as I’d like to say that I’d be willing to do the same, I don’t think I would. I don’t think I have the strength or the selflessness, and that makes me even more thankful for those who do.
Have you ever sacrificed something for someone? Can you remember a time when you gave something up for someone else’s benefit? Did they thank you?
It feels so wonderful when you’re thanked for your gifts. At least I think so.
Personally, when I can see that someone appreciates what I’ve done for them, it makes me feel like doing it a hundred times over. Their smile, their thanks, even just the look of gratitude in their eyes makes it all feel worth it. It keeps me going. It keeps me from feeling like what I’ve done has gone unnoticed, or is unappreciated or unimportant. It can make all the difference in my day.
And I’ve never gone to war for anyone.
This week, I’m going to do my best to remember. I’m going to do my best to voice my gratitude for everything our veterans have done. Everything they’ve given. Everything they’ve been willing to give.
Will you do the same? Will you take a moment out of your day to thank that veteran behind you in checkout? To bring a meal to the veteran across your street? To send a heartfelt card to the veteran working at your library, or hardware store, or restaurant?
Would you join me in intentionally remembering those who have served? Not only this week, but always?
Veterans live with the aftermath of their sacrifice every day. I think they should be thanked for it every day. I believe there should be just as much gratitude in our hearts for these men and women on March 14th as there is on November 11th.
No, it’s not always easy to speak up and voice our feelings. But their sacrifice hasn’t been easy for them. And besides, I find that the more I make a practice of showing my gratitude, the easier it becomes.
So again, as we move toward Veterans Day, and continue through the rest of the year, I ask you to join me in remembering our veterans. To use that remembrance to spark thankfulness. To take that thankfulness and show it.
And if you are a veteran, I pray you’ll feel the heartfelt gratitude in my words. I pray you’ll remember that you are appreciated. You are respected. And you are remembered.
Not just this week. Not just on Wednesday. But every day.
I thank my God every time I remember you.
(Philippians 1:3 NIV)