We are at that time of year when television and other media begin focusing on the sacrifice of those men and women who have given their lives in the struggle and horror of war. We call the Sunday nearest to the 11 November Remembrance Sunday – this year 8 November.
Last week, Pastor Leslie was referring to Gen Zs and Millennials. I confess that I did not understand the term Gen Z and so had to refer to Wikipedia. For those of you who may also not understand the term, it refers to those born between the mid 1990’s and about 2010.
Perhaps this is an assumption I should not make and I accept it is a generalisation but, the word ‘sacrifice” is perhaps an anachronism to both Generation Z and to the Millennials’ Generation too.
I am personally deeply thankful that I was raised by parents who both not only understood sacrifice but who also understood their duty and responsibility to society.
How I Learned About Sacrifice
I was born during the decade of the 1950’s and I grew up understanding about sacrifice. I was born to parents who had gone through the horrors of World War II, and to grandparents who had lived through and survived the unimaginable suffering of World War I.
I am thankful that I was raised by these very ordinary but also very extraordinary people. I am thankful too that they knew how to live through tough times and how to make a meal out of very little, and how to sew and knit to clothe myself and my sister.
Thankfully we did not grow up in the cult of must have designer ware, and we were not raised with the concept of ‘you are what you wear’. We did not know that we were only ‘worth it’ if we used a particular branded shampoo, lipstick or hair colourant.
Neither parents nor grandparents had any experience of free medical care within the NHS, the Welfare State or the benefit system before 1948. In other words, there were no free handouts and basically, if you didn’t work then you didn’t eat.
My father was a highly intelligent man who could have gone to University but his parents could not afford to support him. So he worked in a job he disliked for 42 years to provide a home and put food on the table for his wife and children.
2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV, ‘For even when we were with you, we commanded that if any would not work, neither should they eat.’ I did not realise what a sacrifice my father made until he retired and became a much happier and more relaxed man who enjoyed his garden, took up water colour painting, and spent his evenings studying history.
My father was trained specifically for the D Day landings and went over to France as a Sergeant in the Royal Armoured Corps. He was a tank driver. He was 24 years old on June 7, 1944, and had been 4 years in training in order to play his specific role in fighting for democracy, world peace and to free Europe from the grip of Nazism.
He fought through one of the fiercest battles – the battle of Caen – and if anyone has ever seen the movie, Saving Private Ryan, with its depiction of the realities of the conflict, then you will know that this city was pretty much destroyed in that battle with thousands of casualties on both sides.
He then endured the horrors of the Ardennes campaign in Belgium, and then into Germany where he witnessed the horrors of the Death Camps.
My father would never join in the Remembrance Day activities and I will always remember the answer he gave me when I asked why: ‘when you have seen your friends burned to death inside a tank then you never want to remember or celebrate’.
My Grandfathers’ War
Both my grandfathers fought in the First World War, and both survived, of course, but I now recall them as extremely distant figures. My Granddad spent most of his time in his woodshed alone and my Grandpa Arnold was a small hunched figure in a chair by the fire or out on his allotment, always quite solitary and a man of very few words.
I guess that they too never wanted to remember what they had witnessed – or perhaps they remembered far too much. Somewhere in my visual memory, there is a photograph of my paternal grandparents on their wedding day in 1915, and I was always puzzled that my grandfather looked positively terrified – whether of my grandmother or of what he was about to return to in the trenches of France…
Sacrifice is a Great Concept that is Largely Missing in Today’s Society
In today’s world of global consumerism – the rationing of food, clothing, petrol etc is unknown in the UK. Fear of not being able to have what you want when you want it was evident at the start of Lock Down as supermarket shelves were cleared of loo rolls, pasta, tins of baked beans to name but a few. Social Media recorded scenes of trolleys stacked high as fear and greed showed their ugly faces. Apparently many could not ‘live’ without their Take Away either.
The Impact of My Upbringing on My Lifestyle
Because I was raised, as I say, by parents and grandparents who knew all about food rationing (and also I might add the worry of perhaps not being able to afford a meal on the table at the end of the week), I was brought up to respect food and to be thankful for what was on my plate. Leftovers were never ‘binned’ but kept for another day, another meal, another empty stomach.
When my grandmother passed away, we found that she had hoarded pieces of string as well elastic bands and paper bags had been carefully smoothed out and placed in a drawer. I am sure that as a Gen Z, wherever you are, you will find these facts unbelievably, crazy in today’s throwaway culture.
Rationing of food was actually worse following the end of World War II than during it. Historical archives now tell us that the Atlee government of 1948 were drawing up plans for a famine in the UK due to the fact that we were forced to borrow billions of dollars from the USA in order to keep the post war economy afloat. You may find it incredible that the UK only finished paying back these loans in 2006. Some ‘special relationship,’ one might wonder?
Food rationing did not finally end until 1956. My father’s joy was to bring home bananas and oranges, and one time when my older sister was very ill with Scarlet Fever – a fresh pineapple. Wonder of wonders!
Shopping was not the recreational activity is has now become and the idea of throw away clothing was unknown.
When I left home at the age of 18 and before going to University, I and my best friend at the time got jobs as chambermaids in a hotel for the summer season in Bournemouth. We blew pretty much everything we earned on clothes and make up and rationed ourselves to one loaf of bread a week. At the end of the week we were cutting off the green mould; we never once ever thought of ‘phoning home’ for a hand out to see us through. And we never did.
Why Am I Writing All This?
I began this article by referring to the word ‘sacrifice’ and in our very selfish and self motivated society today I believe that it is something that needs to be re-learned and re-taught. Everything in our Secular Society is aimed at getting what you want, being what you want and having what you want right now regardless of the eventual cost to oneself and to others – even to your own family and children.
As Christians and Disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to something vastly different to the sheer greed and selfishness all around us – to a life of sacrifice.
Romans 12:1, ESV, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your Spiritual worship.’
Praise the Lord!