“Life is given to us as a gift that we must share with others.”
I have always loved the month of July. As a child growing up in Haiti, I looked forward to Summer vacation with great anticipation and excitement. July was my favorite time in the Summer. It was the time to work in the field with my father and my brothers. Having lived in the United States for over 30 years I have found other reasons to love July. It is the time that Americans reserve to celebrate the independence of a great nation.
During this week of the 4th of July my thoughts have been with the men and women who have sacrificed all, even their own lives, so that all who live in this great land can enjoy the fruits of liberty. Many have also sacrificed their lives so people in other nations can have the blessing of living in a free land. I have been reflecting on the sacrifices of those who are currently serving in the military whether they are stationed overseas or serving in their own cities or states. They serve with valor and courage. They serve to protect the weakest and the strongest among us. They do it for the benefits of those who recognize and appreciate their efforts as well as for those who don’t show any gratitude for their service.
Another reason I love the month of July is that it offers me the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices that pioneers have made. Wherever we live, we benefit from the sacrifices of those who paved the way for us. I have heard once that we breathe the air that we didn’t create and cross bridges that we didn’t build. My wife and I visited last year Saint Pete Beach, Florida. Every day we went out of town we crossed a beautiful long bridge that connects the Tampa Bay area to the southern part of Florida. I was amazed at the labor and the engineering required to build that bridge. It would not be too extreme to think that there are many who cross that bridge daily without thinking about it.
I always marvel at the sacrifices that the Mormon pioneers made to cross the plains during difficult times and seasons and under the most dangerous circumstances. (In your own culture, you also know pioneers that exemplified this spirit of sacrifice.) Many perished before they could reach their final destination. The pioneers who were able to make it didn’t find a land of honey and mana. They had to till the soil, pave the roads, and build bridges. They found a desolate place close to a salty lake. They worked hard. They had a vision. They had faith in the Almighty God. While I don’t have any relatives who were part of this group, I cherish daily their bravery. As a resident of Utah, I am grateful for their sacrifices.
Another groups of pioneers that we often neglect to recognize are those who are currently laying the foundation for future generation and the ones who devote their time and resources in humanitarian services. Many of them live quietly among us. They often left their comfort zones to serve those who live in deplorable conditions. For the last 16 years I have had the distinct privilege of working with fellow humanitarians who go to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to offer health service to children and adults who so desperately need this service. These volunteers donate their time, talents, and also pay for their own expenses. They also help cover the cost to buy medications and supplies. Other generous people who can’t go on these humanitarian services offer their financial support so we can purchase needed medications, supplies and equipment. I watch how these volunteers and donors work together in the spirit of love and humanity to alleviate the pain and the suffering of others and to give them hope. They come from all walk of lives and religious affiliation. They give it all and ask for nothing in return. They too serve as my heroes and people I look up to every day.
As we take time to reflect on how blessed we are to live in this beautiful land of liberty, let us also take time to remember daily those who sacrificed all so we can enjoy these blessings. Let us continue to lift the lives of the people around us. For this life is given to us as a gift that we must share with others.
With much respect and gratitude for all past, present, and future pioneers and military men and women who make this world a better place for all.
Happy 4th of July — Illens Dort