What does it mean to sacrifice?

Published 11:17 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

For years, now, we’ve heard politically motivated complaints that Americans haven’t been asked to sacrifice anything during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never has the nation been at war, the accusers charge, without average Americans being called into service, either on the front lines or here at home.

The essence of the argument is that only a military draft or some 21st-century equivalent of sugar rationing would sufficiently spread the burden of the war effort.

Setting aside the fact that an asked-for sacrifice has somewhat less altruistic value than one volunteered without prompting, I wonder where those who have complained so loudly are today, when Americans truly need their sacrifices right here at home.

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In the face of dire economic times, charitable organizations throughout the land are hurting. Donations are down, and requests are up. Some organizations are closing their doors; others are cutting services. All of them are worried about making their budgets.

If you’ve been waiting for the president or someone else to ask you to give, stop waiting. Seldom in living memory has the nation’s need of selflessness been so great. Americans are hurting, and they can’t wait for their government to rescue them. What’s called for now is strangers helping strangers, neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends and families helping families.

Surely, with times as tough as they are right now, it’s hard for most of us to find anything to share with our neighbors, much less with strangers. It’s always easier to give when we’re giving from our abundance. But that kind of giving isn’t sacrificial, it’s just sharing. To sacrifice is to give something that holds great value, and nothing increases the value of what we have more than losing much of it.

Sure, it’s hard. Sacrifice is supposed to be hard.

Still, though, if you’ve been wondering where are the people who are going to sacrifice for this great nation, the first place you should look is in the mirror. Today. With or without a presidential declaration, it really is time for Americans to pitch in.

Find a cause you believe in, and find a way to help. They need it more than ever.