My wife labored long and hard in the kitchen after putting in a 10 hour day as a teacher and cheerleading coach on her first day of school. She prepared a delicious meal with chicken, rice and lots of other ingredients I am unaware of. After studying the recipe and investing over an hour in actual preparation, she sat three steaming plates on the supper table and my family gathered for our evening meal. Kameron, my seven-year old tasted of his meal and crinkled his nose and said, “I don’t like this.” I saw the hurt on his mother’s face and tried to intercede to lessen the pain she felt from his unappreciative spirit. It was painful for me to remember how many times I had said similar things after my mother, who has passed, saw her labors of love go unappreciated.
The failure to show or feel gratitude seems to plague our modern society. A progressive callousness has infected our hearts. A large number of Americans are more interested in acquiring entitlements they haven’t earned rather than invest a fair day’s labor in exchange for a fair day’s wage.
We now live in cities we did not build. We occupy homes filled with things we did not put there. We draw water from wells we did not dig and we eat the fruit that falls from trees we did not plant.
When I was a child I used to sit quietly and listen to my father and my uncles talk of their experiences fighting in the Second World War. That war changed them forever. They crossed the ocean as young, reckless, daring men who felt the invulnerability common to all youth. They returned with a humility acquired from watching their colleagues demonstrate superhuman courage in desperate moments. I listened as they pondered why they had survived and others had not. They had a deep appreciation and patriotic love for the country their comrades had shed blood for.
Now I sit quietly and listen to my grown sons and their friends discuss politics and talk about their country. The conversation of the generation to follow mine is much different than the conversation of the generation that preceded mine.
Very few Americans favor the politicians that fill the halls of Congress and they wonder what is happening to the country. There is a self-consuming selfishness and egotism that infects modern day ‘statesmen’. Why do they not appreciate and deeply love the country their fathers founded? Is it not because one tends to remember his own sacrifices but he forgets the sacrifices of others? If you’ve not sacrificed anything for the purchase of freedom and liberty you assign less value to those virtues than those who paid dearly.
The Lord God cautioned the Israelites as they were about to enter the land that flowed with milk and honey. God was going to give them “large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill.” They were about to inherit “hewn-out wells they did not dig” and fruit from “trees they did not plant”. (Deuteronomy 6:10-11)
When I was a youth I asked my father to buy me a bike because all the kids in the neighborhood were riding really cool bikes their father’s had bought them. He taught me a lesson I’ll never forget and I hope my own sons learn well. “I won’t buy you a bike, but I’ll help you get a job so you can buy your own bike,” he told me. He purchased a paper route from my friend Bruce and I rose every morning at 4:30 AM so I could cover the three-mile route before catching the bus to school at 7:00 AM. After a couple months of collecting fees, I had earned enough money to buy the best bike in the neighborhood… banana seat, sissy bar, streamers…the whole nine yards. I was so proud of my ‘wheels’.
The lesson: my dad knew I would cherish and care for a bike I had earned with my own labor much more than I would had it simply been given me. The investment of blood, sweat and tears makes the object obtained precious to the owner.
I fear for my country because I believe the truths taught in the Word of God. My father served his country well in WWII. I never served in the military. I’ve not had to make any real sacrifices to preserve freedom for my sons and grandchildren. Neither of my two grown sons chose to serve in the military. My family may very well live through three generations without having to fight to preserve the precious purchase of those who gave their limbs and lives in previous wars.
The danger is that we will forget the price paid and having invested so little we may fail to understand the value of our blessings. God foretold and warned the Israelites what would happen when they drank from wells they did not dig: “Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 6:12)
Alexander Solzhenitsyn sought an answer as to why the Soviet Union had deteriorated so quickly and totally. He listened to the older ones speaking about the disasters that had plagued the Russians. He heard them say, “Men have forgotten God: That’s why this all happened.” (1)
We have reached the point where we eat the meal provided and we push back from the table without even a thought as to the amount of effort and preparation that was invested to provide it for us. We have forgotten God.
1. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, as quoted by Tom Pauken in “Bringing Home America,” p. 101.