Some 155 years ago today a nation was healing from violence. Trying to move beyond mass shootings, domestic violence and terroristic threats they began to come together by commemorating Decoration Day.
Since then the name has changed. The scope increased but still a need addressed in its original intention should be recognized. That’s our focus on this edition of “Becoming Today”.
I hope you are enjoying a safe and blessed extended weekend. Here in the U.S,. many consider this to be the unofficial official start of Summer. While we still have a few weeks before the seasons actually change, many traditionally travel over what has become known as the Memorial Day Weekend.
Just how many will travel remains to be seen. In the meantime I hope you will take some time to remember the actual intention of the holiday – a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered.
Too many have made the supreme sacrifice to get us to this point in history and too often the symbols meant to represent their purity, valor and vigilance are co-opted by those seeking only to profit personally.
My prayers are with those who have perished in defense of their constitutional oaths and their families whose lives were also forever changed. Also my prayers are with you, as we’ll examine why I believe the intention of this day needs to be expanded.
It all began on May 30th, 1868.
However, it was not an official government holiday until 1971.
Originally called Decoration Day, the idea was to continue healing a nation that had seen far too much violence.
Families destroyed, young people lost and fears that the nation was more divided than ever before led some veterans to want to expand the concepts that had taken place in limited locations in the three years since the end of a conflict that led to a President being assassinated for his leadership. A man who had publicly hoped we would not see those who had perished had died in vain.
Therefore, to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the “late rebellion”, mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers.
It seems like so little an individual sacrifice to make for those who gave their lives for the ideals of a revolutionary concept, which our forefathers who created it knew would be difficult to maintain. As Benjamin Franklin was asked when the Constitution was ratified, ‘what do we have?’. He is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
It was less than a hundred years, in fact four score and seven years later that in the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln in dedicating a cemetery for those killed in service to those ideas, spoke about the challenges ahead and the need to remember the sacrifices along the way;
“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
A mere 512 days later Lincoln himself perished, the result of a violent attack.
Now 158 years, one month and 12 days after Lincoln’s assassination, we are still a nation needing to heal. A society increasingly divided and being torn apart by violence.
We recognize change is needed. So where do we begin?
By “Becoming” more grateful.
Like peace, change begins with us. It is in the heart of the individual willing to embrace the courage, integrity and resolve necessary to do their part to effect change.
To do so we need to adopt, or strengthen our attitudes of gratitude.
Be grateful. See the good in everything and everyone.
Cherish beauty, kindness, love, and joy.
I believe everyday should be Thanksgiving. I am constantly giving gratitude for all things including the lessons we sometimes think we didn’t want. Praise and thank you go a long way towards healing and authenticity.
Being grateful puts us in a better state. One of bliss, joy and abundance. When you decide to adopt and commit to an attitude of gratitude, God listens and rewards you. Then you are free to be, in an atmosphere of abundance rather than lack and fear. Being grateful is a conscious and easily sustainable habit. Make it one of yours.
Always with an attitude of thanksgiving and openly expressing our thanks for the outcome. Not when “it” arrives or when it is proven true, but as we ask for it. Give gratitude as you seek showing confidence in your belief that good shall overcome.
However, do not do so pridefully. We should always pray in humility. Ask and gracefully receive.. When we humble ourselves before God we are not only glorifying Him, but also reminding ourselves of how powerful God’s mercy, grace and unconditional love are.
When you make it a conscious habit to express appreciation for your life, the Universe listens and responds with more love. Let me be clear… this doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if you aren’t able to see the good on a bad day.
Life is far from perfect. Sometimes things happen that cause us to react negatively. Having a pity party is okay now and then. However, it does nothing good for your mental and emotional well-being.
An attitude of gratitude forces you to get outside of your problems and look at the bigger picture. In turn, you are better able to bounce forward when challenges occur in life.
Moving ahead, more than remembering those lost is needed.
Just as Memorial Day expanded upon Decoration Day, perhaps the time has come to again increase the focus of this national day of remembrance.
Not taking away from those who made the supreme sacrifice in service to our nation rather to also reflect upon all those other fellow Americans who have perished.
The law enforcement and first responders, lost in the line of duty. The everyday people, like you and me, killed trying to assist others and yes the little children whom God blesses while they are still too young to hate… who become victims of violence whether they were targeted or not.
There are thousands of instances reported of children dying by violent means in the U.S. Many by gunshots, certainly many unintended victims, the result of stray bullets or a shooter missing their intended target.
How many is uncertain.
As a nation we do not keep those statistics.
Of course there are also those who were the intended victims such as the tragedy in Uvalde (which we revisited) this past week and as the result of gang violence elsewhere.
Some numbers we can take note of include:
Every day, 22 children and teens (ages 1-17) are shot in the United States.
- 5 die from gun violence
- 3 are murdered
- 17 children and teens survive gunshot injuries
- 8 are intentionally shot by someone else and survive
- 2 children and teens either die from gun suicide or survive an attempted gun suicide
- 8 children and teens are unintentionally shot in instances of family fire, described as a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home resulting in injury or death
Overall 321 Americans are shot everyday:
- 111 people are shot and killed
- 210 survive gunshot injuries
- 95 are intentionally shot by someone else and survive
- 42 are murdered
- 65 die from gun suicide
- 10 survive an attempted gun suicide
- 1 is killed unintentionally
- 90 are shot unintentionally and survive
- 1 is killed by legal intervention
- 4 are shot by legal intervention and survive
- 1 died but the intent was unknown
- 12 are shot and survive but the intent was unknown
That totals 117,345 people in the US and these are just the instances involving firearms.
The results of violence on our families and neighbors is even more staggering. Every year there are more than 25-thousand homicides; individuals deliberately murdered.
Those are just the ones who died. The number of individuals directly impacted by violence in America each year alone is more than ten million. That is three -percent of the total population.
Look around you.
Can you see ten people?
Will you encounter ten people today?
Then realize that three out of those ten will potentially become a victim of violence this year.
And that is just those who are directly harmed, injured or killed. It does not even begin to consider all those affected by those incidents. Family, friends, neighbors, you and I.
Among the reasons cited as a motivating factors in these attacks are:
- Anger management issues
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling inferior
- Cultural beliefs they have the right to control their partner
- Personality disorder or psychological disorder
- Learned behavior from growing up in a family where domestic violence was accepted
- Alcohol and drugs, as an impaired individual may be less likely to control violent impulses
It seems that a common denominator among these issues is having an attitude that is far less than gratitude. Anger, jealousy and low self esteem all stem from a perceived lack of love, which does not allow for one to feel grateful.
So as with many issues the answers are not out there somewhere.
They are within. They are available 24/7/365. We just need to know where to look.
We need to give peace a chance by remaining hopeful and freely giving of love rather than accepting hate.
We need to accept and believe that a right to life goes beyond just being born. It involves being able to live, live a life of quality, safely and freely.
Come Monday, 155 years ago a nation was healing from violence. Trying to move beyond mass shootings, domestic violence and terroristic threats they began to come together by commemorating Decoration Day.
Today we are still there. Dealing with issues of divisiness and violence. We all need to be striving to come together with resolve and intention and the realization that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
It takes all of us.
Each of us.
To desperately want change. To want to see a world where perhaps we can give peace a chance. To see a day where no one is living in fear.
Now that would be a day to be memorialized. That would be a day to be decorated.
I am praying for that day and hope you will join me.
Just as those who lived through the horror of the Civil War took it upon themselves to recognize those who perished, we too can not wait for the government to do it for us.
This is an issue that needs to go beyond borders, be addressed in all languages and a challenge that needs to be gratefully accepted in the hearts of all.
Maybe if we did, we could lessen the need for candlelight vigils and roadside memorials.
Then we could more easily accept each day with gratitude being truly thankful for the gift of life, liberty and the ability to freely pursue happiness.
On our next edition of “Becoming Today”, I’ll share a very complex three word question that I have for you. Stay safe and we’ll talk again come Monday.