Flags are flying at half mast once again. Here in my home state, many are in mourning and it feels like all are in conversation about the firefighters who lost their lives. 19 of them lost their lives. Many were young, very young. 20, 21, 23…newly married, engaged, parents and all dreaming of what would come next as they gave their lives trying to make it a better place for their own families and many they never would meet. A sober national holiday indeed.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of conversations of what it means to give your life for the betterment of someone else. Conversations of this being the very essence of what Christ calls us to do. Conversations of the risk versus the rewards of placing yourself in danger for the sake of others. These conversations often took place around the Fourth of July. For many of my friends, this holiday in particular is very poignant. They have spent most if not their entire lives in the USA. They are grateful for the life they have here and are acutely aware of US history and embrace a pride that exceeds many citizens. They also talk of the sacrifices made by family members to get them here. For some, they faced degradation and humiliation being well respected and educated in their countries of origin only to take on menial labor and to be ridiculed here. Due to violence, war, genocide and a variety of horrors most of us only read about, they made hard choices and left their homelands. Some intended to come here, many simply were fleeing certain death only to find themselves here through a variety of channels. All of them are aware that someone sacrificed so that they may have a better life. That others, sometimes their own mothers and fathers, gave their very lives so that they could have a chance in this country.
For all of the horrific things in this world, I still see people sacrificing their own selves for the sake of others on a regular basis. This shows up in parents, in a friend who is career coast guard, in YMCA workers, in teachers and yes…the church. It is easy to write about what is wrong in this world. It is easy to talk of the horrors and injustices not to mention of hypocritical gossip. For today, I am grateful to 19 hot shot firefighters I never met and am reminded that they represent the best in humanity. That they represent the imago dei, One who was willing to give his very life for others.