Just as it is today, the United States of America was facing dark and troubling times in January of 1941 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress to deliver his state of the Union address. It was in that speech that FDR summed up four basic rights which every citizen of the U.S. enjoys:
1.) Freedom of Speech,
2.) Freedom of Worship,
3.) Freedom from Want, and
4.) Freedom from Fear.
Each of those themes would be captured elegantly over the course of the next few years by the ink-and-brush work of the legendary artist Norman Rockwell. Those truths – those God-given rights – expressed first by a president and then an artist still hold true today, and I’m thankful for each of them:
Freedom of Speech: I have the right to stand and say what’s on my mind, just as you have the right to say whatever you wish. (I'm mindful, of course, of the prohibition against shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.) This is a hard freedom to always fully appreciate, especially when you disagree
wholeheartedly with the message someone else is delivering, but there it is.
And so I’m thankful.
Freedom of Worship: I have the right to worship my God in the manner in which I chose, just as you do, too. In a world where each year hundreds are made martyrs for their faith (Christians, too) I’m thankful I live in a nation where you and I can worship as we see fit.
Freedom from Want: I know times are tough economically right now, but times always are tough. This isn’t an easy world, but in this nation – still – you have greater freedoms from want than in most places. And for that I’m thankful.
It’s the last freedom – Freedom from Fear – that is especially on my mind this Thanksgiving Day. Let me tell you why:
This morning I got an e-mail from one of my sons’ high school buddies. He is in the Army and currently serving a combat tour in Afghanistan. He said hello, then recounted his Thanksgiving Day meal: a can of Pringles washed down by a Mountain Dew. Oh, there was a turkey dinner somewhere, but he was too busy working today: a couple of patrols and then an attempt to catch some sleep before he had to go out again. But he was still too wired, still too tight to sleep so he caught some time on a computer to send out a few random messages.
Earlier this week I got another message. This one came from a Marine Corps friend of one of my sons. Together they served deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and today my son’s buddy is serving another deployment in Afghanistan, his third combat tour in slightly more than four years.
This is – in part – what he said: he “has been married for two years and has spent less than five months with his wife; has missed multiple birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays; has missed and is missing again deer and duck season; is twenty-two years old and has more health issues than a
forty year old; has seen brothers sacrifice more in a split second than others will in their entire lives; has seen his wife undergo more stress and discomfort and not buckle nor waiver and remain strong in her commitment to our Lord and to me.”
Then he had a simple request and I am honored to pass it along: “Stop for a minute and consider where you are, what you are doing and offer a prayer for those who need it: infantry Marines, those embedded with them, their spouses
Freedom from Fear. So, yes, I offer a prayer of thanks this day and every day for the men and women who work around the clock to keep us free from the fears that haunt so many others in this world. Of course I’m talking about more than just our Marines and soldiers, sailors and airmen and Coast Guardsmen. Let’s remember, too, the fire fighters and police officers and the doctors and nurses
(including one of my daughters-in-law) who are standing watch to protect us.