The beaches of Normandy are legendary because of the fierce fight for freedom staged there on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Twenty years ago, my husband and I were in France, but we took Normandy off the itinerary in favor of other sites. My husband has regretted that decision. So, this year when we headed to the UK, we made room and arrangements so we wouldn’t miss it a second time.
We took the ferry from Portsmouth and arrived in time to enjoy a French sunrise on a day we will never forget. We first visited Omaha Beach. We saw flags representing the allied forces, parked our rental car, and headed for the displays and monuments on the beach. There were storyboards detailing the storming of this German stronghold and the terrible price paid in suffering and the thousands of lives lost. We have read about it, seen movies depicting it, and studied it in school, but we weren’t prepared for the powerful emotions of gratitude and admiration for the price paid for freedom there. From the moment we read the first sign board describing the battle, I could not stop the tears. Without a doubt, we were standing on sacred ground, hallowed by the ultimate sacrifice paid by these brave soldiers and the families they left behind. We gazed at the ocean and marveled at the powerful impact their actions still have on us and countless others who are forever in their debt.
We also visited the Normandy American Cemetery. In the visitors’ center, we watched a short film about the weight carried by these everyday soldiers (some as young as 15 years old who had exaggerated their age): the future of the free world. There were stories about medics who gave their lives as they rushed to save others, the genius of planning the attack, and samples of their gear, including huge radios and other equipment they carried. In the background, we heard a recording that continuously recited, one by one, the names of these young fallen heroes.
The cemetery itself that overlooked the sea was covered with heart-wrenching rows of white headstone crosses that seemed to stretch beyond the bounds our eyes and hearts could comprehend. We left feeling solemn with a determination to never forget this epic battle and to help others remember it as well.
Beyond that, we wondered what we could do here and now to follow this model of powerful impact. We didn’t have an answer yet, but we began by sharing our experience and gratitude with our family that very day and resolved that WE will never forget. To help you remember, view this YouTube Video featuring the Normandy American Cemetery from [the] American Battle Monuments Commission.
A few weeks after our return, I met my dear friend, Ann Turner, from Canada who was visiting here. She recounted her involvement in local efforts there to provide relief and succor to Ukrainian evacuees. Big Ocean Women provided speedy relief and help to Ukraine in the beginning days of this ongoing war. There were lives saved and hope sparked. Sadly, I had relegated their story to a back page, forgetting that they continue to fight multiple battles on every side. For example, when Big Ocean leaders inquired about their most urgent needs with winter coming, the answer was, “Tourniquets and medical supplies.” But these compassionate Canadians have not fallen into that forgetful trap.
A young family, hardly established themselves, opened their home and hearts to an evacuee family in desperate need. Once they started, they never stopped assisting this family and their community. A local Christian congregation opens their meetinghouse every day to provide a space for teachers not of their faith to offer crash courses in “Survival English.” Ann and a group of women from that congregation weekly pick up pizza donated by Little Caesars for the group, sometimes making it into a celebratory lunch for the newest graduates. She also studied and worked with a tutor to prepare and share a short message of love and faith with them in Ukrainian.
When I emailed Ann to get information about their efforts, she apologized for not responding promptly because she and others were scrambling to find winter clothing for their beloved friends. We both concluded that doing the work itself was far more important than talking and writing about it. We promise to share more details and photos of their efforts in a future newsletter. I can’t think of a better way to be a model of powerful impact than the continuous “boots on the ground” actions in such an ongoing, sustained manner.
How can we follow this model? I love an analogy shared by our founder, Carolina Allen. We’re all familiar with the idea of throwing a rock in the pond and watching its impact create expanding ripples. However, she said, more often it’s multiple raindrops that change the entire face of the water. We can be like those raindrops. Perhaps we won’t be the huge stone thrown, but what about being part of a storm of goodness in your local lake of life? Helping at a food bank, donating clothing and household goods, celebrating the birth of a baby, helping a single mom with transportation or a tank of gas, visiting new move-ins, or serving a meal at a homeless shelter.
The important thing is to forget ourselves and take the challenge to see everyone as unique and worthy of respect. We must foster a culture of inclusion in our own hearts and homes, and nurture its growth in our neighborhood, school, community, and beyond. Perhaps you can fight for freedom by becoming more informed and involved in supporting candidates for the local school board or the president of your country. Whatever you do, let your presence and love be felt and willingly add your strength to shoulder the weight of the world wherever you are. Don’t worry that your little drop won’t change the world; have faith that, combined with others, it can create an ocean of change.
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