It can be difficult to find things to be grateful for right now. We’re living in challenging times! Many of us are facing financial or health crises. Our lives have been turned upside down. And to be quite honest, we’re grieving. Not only the loss of our health and financial security or the loss of loved ones. But we’re also grieving the loss of our celebrations and ceremonies and our cherished family traditions. And still the holidays come and go. So, on this holiday I choose to look at the bright side and keep in mind these Memorial Day reminders to be grateful.
Memorial Day in the US is a grand event that marks the beginning of summer and the remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives in service to our country. And while this year Memorial Day looks much different for all of us, it is no less important. This holiday, arguably above all other secular holidays, gives us clear reason to be grateful.
The first of three Memorial Day reminders to be grateful.
Throughout this country many are feeling the pains of change. Their freedoms have been interfered with by COVID and many are suffering. However, we as a nation remain free. And while an argument could be made that some enjoy more freedoms than others, all enjoy more freedoms than they historically have.
The harsh reality though is that freedom is not free! It never has been and it’s possible that it never will be! The freedoms we have today were hard won and preserved on the backs of many. From everyday freedom fighters to soldiers on the battlefield. To them we owe a debt of gratitude.
Memorial Day is an excellent opportunity to take the time to pay respect to those who have come before and paved the road that you’re currently walking. It’s a time for remembrance and a time to appreciate the cost of freedom.
The Origins of Memorial Day
Now, before you get all anti-war on me let me point out the origins of Memorial Day. This holiday was first celebrated after the Civil War in the United States. It was borne of necessity as our country needed to bury and honor 600,000 to 800,000 fallen soldiers. And as much as possible our country needed to unify and create a new path forward that guaranteed freedom for all.
Many wars have been fought throughout our history to secure or maintain freedom. And while we may sometimes disagree with the conflicts the US government has engaged in, we can also be grateful for those who have lost their lives defending our country, way of life, and freedom. We can show our gratitude and respect to them and their families.
So, today and always, I’m grateful for my freedom and for that of my fellow countrymen and women. I’m grateful for those who defend it, their families and to those who’ve laid down their lives. While we don’t live in a perfect nation, we all have far more freedoms today than we have prior. And more than we would have if it weren’t for those who are willing to walk into extreme danger any time they are called to.
2. The Kindness of Strangers
The second of three Memorial Day reminders to be grateful.
I believe that the story of the first Memorial Day epitomizes the extreme lengths people will go to to be kind and generous. It’s likely that since the first Memorial Day celebration was just uncovered in 1996 you haven’t heard a thing about it so let me fill you in.
The First Memorial Day Celebration
It was recently discovered that the first Memorial Day celebration took place in Charleston, SC, in May 1865, only 1 month after the confederacy surrendered.
It had happened that more than 260 captured union soldiers died in the racetrack that had been converted into a POW camp. They had succumbed to exposure and disease in the open-air camp and were buried in a mass grave.
Immediately after the end of the war, facing what would be grave risk, the emancipated men and women of Charleston exhumed and reinterred the bodies of the soldiers and created a cemetery on the site. Then, on May 1, 10,000 men and women (most of whom were freed slaves) gathered to honor the fallen. They had a parade, brought flowers, spoke blessings and prayed for those who had lost their lives.
Human Kindness Continues
I am hard pressed to imagine a greater story of the human spirit and desire to do good for your fellow man than this one! The incredible risk these brave men and women were taking to pay respect and tribute in a community that was still very segregated and prone toward oppression and violence is almost unbelievable.
Yet still today we see that human kindness is pervasive. While these times have created significant division and struggle, they’ve also brought out the best in us. Millions of masks have been made and donated along with food and supplies. People are looking out for and shopping for their neighbors, family and friends. And essential workers are still showing up to keep things running smoothly and meet our needs, even though they might actually be making more money if they just stayed home and collected unemployment.
We can be grateful for human kindness and for the opportunity for it to rise and become so apparent.
And, last but not least, the third of the Memorial Day reminders to be grateful.
Regardless of what’s going on in the world, mother nature moves forward! For many of us it felt that winter would never end this year! Between the early snowfall in much of the country and COVID isolation it seemed we’d be cooped up indoors forever. But, NO! As with every other year, Memorial Day unofficially indicates the beginning of summer!
And with summer comes beaches, gardening and barbeques. Outdoor activities galore! Which means we can finally be reunited with our love ones with minimal adjustments. While we were worried and concerned about going to public spaces or even the homes of others we can now visit outside on decks, porches and pool sides (of course leaving a bit more space between us).
Summer also naturally brings an end to cold and flu season and hopefully COVID season as well. We’re likely to see a decrease in illness and an increase in hope and happiness this summer!
Memorial Day Reminders to be Grateful
As we begin returning to normal or creating a new normal whatever that may be I think it’s particularly important to count our blessings and move forward with new hope. Memorial Day is an incredible day that not only celebrates those who sacrificed their lives but also hope, freedom and a new fresh start! And for that I will be grateful, this year and every year
Tell me in the comments what you’re most grateful for this Memorial Day!