The moment had finally come.
The last shot … blocked. The last second … elapsed. At last the long wait was over. The Denver Nuggets would walk off the floor for the first time as Western Conference Champions, punching their first-ever ticket to the NBA Finals.
It was time for the nation to see Denver’s joy, to see the excitement, to see … two long minutes of LeBron James heading for the Lakers locker room in defeat?
Sigh. Sometimes even when you win, you can’t win.
I shouldn’t be surprised. As a nation – maybe even as a species – we’re not that good at focusing our attention where it belongs.
After all, look at our current holiday.
We often get caught up in the trappings of a holiday and Memorial Day is no exception. In fact, with Memorial Day, we get layers upon layers of misunderstanding and distraction. An alien looking at our practices and reading our subconscious minds might conclude that the day is:
- “The first day of summer! Ok, that’s really in June, but still …”
- “A chance to pull out the new grill and show Jake and Mary how you really cook a steak!”
- “The first three-day weekend we’ve had in way too long. Woohoo!”
- “Uh … something about thanking soldiers for their service. Right?”
None of them hit the bullseye. Even that last one. Not that it’s ever inappropriate, but if you want to tie that “thank you” to an actual holiday, Veterans Day in November is the one you’re looking for.
Memorial Day is … well, what it says. The pause to remember. The moment of honor for the defenders no longer here. It’s not the passing parade but the sudden silence.
And as such, it draws on a whole bunch of qualities that we’re really not that good at.
A moment to pause? These days, our world insists that every moment be filled, leaving no time to think about anything except what’s right in front of you.
Remembering the dead? So many of us go out of our way to avoid thinking about death at all, like a student who thinks graduation is an elective and that they can stay in school forever.
Silence? Every moment of our lives seems to have a soundtrack. Stillness is something foreign, a state that has to be sought out … if we even remember it exists at all.
In short, Memorial Day forces us to make a lot of choices that don’t come naturally to us. To break out of our expectations. To see and be, not just react.
There’s nothing wrong with the rest of it. I like a good steak, too, after all. But if we focus on the fun and forget the core, we’ve missed the point as surely as any ESPN announcer.
That’s not where any of us should want to be.
So this year, take a moment to hold up those who can no longer hear our thanks. The ones who never came marching home again.
Remember to stop. Be still. Reflect.
Our choice costs nothing. Theirs cost everything.
The moment has come. And we’ve seen how grating it can be when a champion is ignored.
So take some time now to give our own champions their due.