Sacrifice. No one seems to like this word. It is “the surrender or destruction of something prized, for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” To give something up. Sacrifice costs. Sacrifice never feels good at the time, it hurts you. 21st Century Britain seems to have polar extremes of attitudes towards sacrifice. In our Armed Forces, we see and hear examples of sacrifice everyday. The patriotism it creates, the pride in their work- despite the controversial circumstances- might make the cost seem worthwhile for some, but for the families and loved ones involved, that cost is much, much higher. At the same time however, we live in a selfish society- where little thought is given to the “greater good” (genuine good, not Hot Fuzz style!). It is about me, and what I can get out of the world around me. Only now are we beginning to see the consequences of 60-70 years of such a self-centred attitude.
June is all about sacrifice. In the news recently as it celebrates its 70th anniversary, the 3rd June 1940 saw the last ship of “Operation Dynamo” leave Dunkirk, completing the evacuation of 328,226 troops. Not only were the “heroes…in jerseys and sweaters and old rubber boots” willing to risk their lives for some “unknown sons of his country”, but many soldiers were left behind, sacrificing their own lives to keep the Nazis at bay (for more on their sacrifice, try these two news reports- even if they are from the Daily Mail! Story 1 and Story 2)
That same day, in 1989, also saw the Chinese massacre at Tiananmen Square, where Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters. Their lives, given as part of the struggle to break free from Mao’s Communist rule, are always remembered through the iconic pictures and videos of that time. On 4th June 1913, Emily Davison was killed at the Epsom Derby (although whether her life was given intentionally for the work of the suffragettes is debatable).
The 6th June saw more heroics from British soldiers, as the D-Day landings began in 1944, with more than 150,000 troops landing on the beaches of Normandy. And on 12th June 1964, Nelson Mandela, future Prime Minister of South Africa, was jailed for life for sabotage during his protests against Apartheid. Finally, the 13th June 313 AD saw the “Edict of Milan” ending over 200 years of Roman persecution against Christians- it is impossible to say how many gave their lives in those years for what they believed to be “greater than themselves”.
People who were willing to make a difference. True heroes- not necessarily because they personally were successful, but because they considered something other than themselves to have a “higher or more pressing claim”. What are you willing to sacrifice in your life, perhaps today, perhaps in the future? What has a “higher claim”?