There is a roar in my spirit that longs to come out. It could be a wail but it sounds better if I say roar, don’t you think? I sound so much more in control.
Everywhere I look there is something bearing down on me or tripping me over or holding me back. Me. Me. Me. Ugh the sheer myopia of it all.
So it was with real relief that we celebrated Remembrance Sunday yesterday. To break completely away from my self-absorption, self-scrutiny, self-pity. Remembrance Day is surely the palate cleanser to end all palate cleansers.
I have not been in the UK for Remembrance Sunday in over twenty years. We celebrate Veterans Day in the States which I find meaningful and moving. However, it is the very tininess of our island nation that undoes me on Remembrance Sunday here.
I picked up my eleven year old from a sleepover and we had to take windy back roads to get home because the usual route past our village church was blocked for the two minute silence. As we reached the roundabout, we could see at least sixty stalwart back views in warm coats standing to attention by the War Memorial. The bereaved. Those who could still remember wars and perhaps those who have family in them now. Parents with young children some of whom weren’t even conceived in the 100 years since 1914.
We got home in time to join my elderly parents and thirteen year old watch the ceremony at the Cenotaph on TV. There was some grumbling as to why my kids needed to be involved but I snapped, “SHH-PP! Just watch. Be quiet, and watch.”
And the five of us stood there in the sitting room facing the screen, along with the millions around the country. We stood for two minutes in silence at eleven o’clock in the morning. Exactly.
What most inspires me about those who have served is their pride in having done so. They never brag about killing, they want to talk instead about how their “small part” (which can never be small) contributed to saving the lives of others. To a man (or woman) yesterday when interviewed, they all talked about being part of something so much greater than themselves. Something so much more worthy than their own individual life.
Doesn’t that ring true? That what gives true meaning to our lives is not ultimately whatever we have done for ourselves, but the things that we have done for others. We experience the truth of Jesus’ words: “Those who seek to save their life will lose it.” After all, when we live for ourselves what are we left with? The woefully inadequate “Me”.
Living for oneself, focusing on oneself, worrying about oneself cannot provide the satisfaction we hunger for if we weren’t designed that way. When Jesus says, “It’s more blessed to give than receive,” he is stating a fact. It’s not a “should”, it’s a provable point.
Yesterday morning I watched all these representatives from Commonwealth countries laying their wreaths at the memorial in Whitehall: Australia, New Zealand, India, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Solomon Islands, Sierra Leone, Canada, Singapore. On and on and on. Countries that came to the help of Britain to win the war.
They laid wreaths in London representing the millions and millions of lives lost in service by their fellow countrymen for us. All there expressed how honoured they felt that their country has been a part of it. And how passionately they came now also to honour those who paid the ultimate price fighting alongside them.
For others. All for others.
I worry for my teenager and her generation in their Instagram bubble. That constant adolescent anxiety now writ larger than ever courtesy of social media and advertising. I feel I watch helplessly. I suggest options but what do I know I’m “Mu-um.” But I do know.
I know from my own half century that the more concerned I become with myself and what others think of me, the less my own life seems to become. The more impoverished, the narrower, the blander, drained more and more of natural, vivid colour. I want to scream at my kids and their friends, “Watch out! It’s a trap!” A huge global trap.
But in the meantime, I need to scream it to myself to wake up. When my concern for myself and my own problems threatens to eclipse my life as part of a larger humanity. A humanity that needs me as much as I need it.
My son brought home a bracelet from the British Legion poppy fund. I’m going to wear it myself when he grows tired of it.
I couldn’t have summed it up better.