I wish that every American could spend one day visiting northern France where our brave troops stormed the beaches of Normandy 72 years ago. After recently visiting those beaches and then experiencing Armistice (Veterans) Day, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness contemplating those who laid down their lives for the liberation of Europe during WWII.
If you were to spend the day traveling through northern France, you might be surprised as I was, to find families from the liberated countries of France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the U.S. Military cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, caring for the graves of the U.S. soldiers. In fact, for 3 generations now, the liberated families have not forgotten what those men and women did for them as they continue caring for the soldiers’ graves.
Like me, you may also be surprised to discover that in many parts of northern France the U.S. flag is flown adjacent to the red, white and blue flag of France. There appears to be great respect and appreciation by the French people for the American men and women who laid down their lives for the liberation of their country.
What I have been told about the French people was different than what I observed and experienced. They were friendly and warm yet, in the back of my mind I questioned if this sense of thankfulness and appreciation by the French for their liberation is sincere and genuine.
Then I read a Detroit News article (11 November 2016) and discovered the appreciation is real. The news story told of France honoring 5 U.S. WWII Veterans from metro Detroit, Michigan. The veterans, Alexander Jefferson, Walter Bala, John Clark, Mario Gizzi and Robert Haffner were honored by France’s Consul General for the Midwest for their role in helping liberate the European nation from Nazi occupation.
The U.S. Veterans were presented with France’s Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal created by Napoleon Bonaparte. The medal is the highest honor the country bestows on people who have carried out the actions of great value to the nation. I’m sure that our Veterans did not realize that they had given in a way far beyond what they could have ever imagined.
According to the article, while the French Consul General for the Midwest presented the veterans with their medals, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) told the Vets: “Both the American people and the people of France are truly grateful for everything you have done for our two nations. Thank you for your patriotism, your sacrifice and your willingness to liberate a country that was not your own. Your service and dedication to defending the American ideals of liberty, equality and justice for all will never be forgotten.”
As 2016 comes to a close, consider ways that you can give beyond what you can imagine. All of our Veterans who have served our country through the years could never have imagined the impact the giving of their lives through their sacrificial service has had on the world, which like the French people, will never be forgotten.
You may want to take a step of faith and make the kind of gift that in your heart is of great sacrifice.
Just as Jesus told His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
We do not know what next year holds. But we can be confident that our generosity at this year-end can demonstrate much love and add great value to others in need.
What large, audacious charitable challenge are you aware that is in need of your support? Is there an asset that you own that you can gift in helping address that challenging need?
Maybe you have a valuable piece of real estate or other personal property that you have longed to use for the good of others? Or maybe you own your company and control closely-held stock you have considered gifting to charity? You may be considering converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA and making charitable contributions to help offset the tax liability incurred while re-positioning your retirement assets?
These types of gifts can certainly get a bit complex. However, generosity is meant to change us as well as those we benefit. It’s an adventure. If we embrace it, we can open an excitement to life that is vibrant and energizing.
Storming the beaches of Normandy France is one way to give beyond what you can imagine…but it’s not the only way. We remain forever grateful and indebted to those who did. Now it’s our turn to do something daring and boisterous.
So, as the end of 2016 approaches, consider ways you can give beyond what you can imagine by adding value to others through your generosity. Consider getting in the game. The primary experience is participation. The money part is not the goal but it’s the faith that we demonstrate through our generosity that will impact lives in future ways that we cannot imagine.
For more thoughts on generosity pick up a copy of the enjoyable book, “An Unexpected Legacy: Strategies of Generosity.” Click here to place your order.