While most people this week are consumed with politics and our election (which is very important, don’t get me wrong), this year, more than any other, I’m more interested in Veteran’s Day at the end of the week. We recognized our veterans yesterday at church, and it was such a special moment to see pictures of the many men in our church who serve regularly, when they served in our military. They don’t draw attention to it. They don’t brag about it. Most were a little reluctant to be spotlighted.
Our church website team interviewed each of our veterans and as I read through the interviews, I was blown away. One veteran talked about seeing part of the USS Arizona that was sunk at Pearl Harbor and remembering the many men who lost their lives during the bombing. One talked about how scared he was, spending his first time away from home when he enlisted. What these people have given, what our country so easily takes for granted, it makes me want to cry and shout, all at the same time.
I’ve seen so many friends on Facebook ranting about the election, ranting about people who rant about the election, and complaining about the problems that plague our country. My uncle served in the Air Force. My father-in-law served in the Navy. As you explore my husband’s family tree, there’s a long list of relatives who’ve spent time in service to America. While I’ve known this, I don’t think I’ve ever really recognized how much I’ve taken that for granted.
I know there’s many that would debate whether America is still the greatest country in the world, from both sides of the argument… and there are things in our country that I find so disheartening at times (plus concerning for the future of my children). However, if there is one thing, that repeatedly without fail, makes me proud to be an American, it’s the many freedoms that I have, given to me by those that have served.
Our Wednesday night lesson at church talked about the importance of God giving Adam and Eve free will in the garden. If God had never given them the choice to obey, the choice to choose Him, the opportunity to mess things up, their love, their respect, their relationship – it would all be built out of obligation. Adam and Eve wouldn’t know any other way.
While America is far from the Garden of Eden, it is still free. I’m free to love who I want, believe the way I want, worship how I want, dress the way I want, talk the way I want, and act the way I want. I am not who I am out of obligation. I am who I am by choice. The good, the bad, the loud and obnoxious, the quiet and reserved. It’s all choice.
We’ve forgotten that in our country. Problems are blamed, not on the choice made, but on the factor contributing to that choice. I studied nature versus nurture as a big part of social work curriculum, and I can see the argument for both sides; however, we are all still responsible for the choices we make. I can choose to let the laundry pile up. I can choose to vote or not to vote. I can choose to attend church. I can choose to be prejudice (although I try not to be, just to clarify). I can choose to dye my hair pink, purple, or not at all. We, as a nation, have become quite adept at stereotypes and blaming factors instead of expecting individuals to take responsibility for their individual choices. One individual’s poor choices does not give anyone the right to go loot a city, burn down businesses, or harass other citizens in the streets. Do our systems need change? Undoubtedly, but with encouragement, education, hard work, and understanding, not violence, not riots, not Facebook rants.
This week, I encourage you to remember our veterans and thank them for their service, but also take advantage of the freedoms, the opportunity to choose, that they’ve provided for you.
Choose kindness. Choose encouragement. Choose love. Choose to smile. Choose to rise above.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV