For most Americans, Memorial Day represents the beginning of summer.
However, by definition, Memorial Day is a day we set aside to honor and remember the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the military. If we forget their sacrifice and fail to understand history, we do so at our own peril.
Before we rush into summer, let’s take time to pause and reflect on the past year and ask ourselves what we’ve learned from our recent history.
For most of us, 2020 will remain etched in our memory.
It was a hard year, filled with loss, letting go of expectations, and adjusting to less-than-ideal situations.
Many of the support systems we relied on in the past were suddenly cut off, and we were on our own. By sheer determination, we managed to muddle our way through the year.
As we’re slowly returning to normal, I’ve noticed that “normal” doesn’t fit as comfortably as it did in the past.
Of course, there are the more trivial challenges like wearing real pants and factoring in commute time. But what about some of the deeper shifts that we’ve experienced?
What about the amount of time we spent at home, isolated from friends and family? What about the number of deaths? What about the fear and uncertainty we experienced? What about the increasing polarization?
Think back to the beginning of 2020 and all the excitement we had about the beginning of a new decade. The year “2020” itself seemed to glow with symbolism, representing perfect 20/20 vision and clarity. It was going to be magical.
Ironically, we did get clarity of sorts, just not the clarity we wanted. Instead, we began to see more clearly how politically, racially, and economically divided our country still is.
The collective grief we have experienced has been intense, but the underlying issues haven’t been resolved.
So how do we move forward?
Memorial Day gives us an opportunity. It invites us to look back and honor those who showed courage in the face of danger and were willing to lay down their life for their fellow citizens. We can let their example move us to ask God to help us love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves.
These kinds of prayers feel scary. It’s easier to get caught up in rhetoric and polarization of the moment. But on a day when we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, it seems to be a hopeful way forward.
This Memorial Day, before we blaze ahead, may we take time to look back and reflect on how we can be part of a hopeful future.