By Bill Webb
Memorial Day is just ahead. This holiday is a perfect occasion to reflect on the contributions of others and to show gratitude for their contributions — indeed, their sacrifices — on behalf of their families, friends and fellow citizens.
For most of us, Memorial Day is a paid holiday. We welcome the respite from work. That Monday is a perfect day to be away from our jobs. It is the day when public swimming pools open and summer recreation and the vacation season officially begin. Memorial Day weekend is a major event for retailers.
It takes discipline to give the day its due. In many ways, American society has become better geared toward anticipation than memory. Sometimes, little effort is given to noting the best of the past. We are, after all, a nation of people who live in the now and for the future. Many of us act like we have no clue about how we are connected with the giants of previous generations.
Freedom is something many of us enjoy, even take for granted, but not always cherish as a precious gift often purchased at a cost much greater than money.
We risk losing the memory of such things when the appreciation of freedom and the acknowledgement of freedom's heroes become less and less important to each generation. People cannot forget what they do not know — or choose not to know. Willful ignorance of the sacrifices of so many is a sad form of amnesia because it is intentional.
We Baptists have a tremendous heritage because of the singular contributions of Baptists to the thread of freedom woven into the earliest fabric of the American dream. But most Baptists have never heard the names of John Leland and Isaac Backus, just two of the early Baptists who helped shape the cause of religious liberty in America. What they did for the rest of us is hardly known anymore.
Freedom is not an entitlement, though many people regard it as such. We know that freedom-fighters around the world are diligent even today to bring freedom to where it has not existed, to strengthen freedom where it is frail and to preserve freedom where it has flourished. Freedom is not automatic.
Freedom does not grow accidentally or in a vacuum. It always is planted at a cost, and gardeners of freedom must be the most diligent of horticulturists. Forces stand ready to stamp out the seedlings of liberty. Apathy is one of freedom's worst enemies, often more insidious than any dictator.
So on this day, think about, learn about and give thanks for those who have paid the price. Many of them have been soldiers, but others have been faithful ministers and missionaries, public officials, activists, writers or simply people who remember and keep the dream alive for this generation and the ones that will follow.
Forgetting is not a viable option for those who believe honor is due those who have spent their lives in the pursuit and defense of God-given values. Make sure your children and your grandchildren recognize and appreciate their heritage as recipients of freedom.