One of the greatest threats to a vibrant civil society is simple forgetfulness. What we forget our children may never know. What our children do not know our grandchildren are unlikely to possess. Real remembering includes not only the history of those who have gone before but the principles they lived by. The world is in need of a renaissance of remembering.
Faith, freedom and family often falter in the face of forgetfulness. Commitments that were once concrete can quickly crack and then crumble through simple neglect and forgetfulness. Casualness or neglect by one generation can rapidly spiral into apathy in the next.
Early in 1995, I was preparing for an extended 21-day business trip to England. The first 14 days of the trip were scheduled as a semi-death march, with each day spent delivering eight hours of business training followed by an evening event and weekends filled with speeches and conference talks for youth groups throughout the country.
To compound the challenge, I would not sleep in the same city two nights in a row for the first 14 days. As I made my preparations for the trip, I found myself engaged in one of my least favorite activities in the world — ironing my shirts. I determined I would need to iron 14 shirts to get me through to the day I would have to do laundry.
As I ironed, my daughter Lindsay, who was about 4 years old at the time, kept begging me to let her help with the ironing. Any of you who have received help from a 4-year-old know that this kind of assistance is usually more work than help. At first I put Lindsay off, and told her I needed to do it myself. She persisted — as is her nature. Her begging turned to pleadings — she wanted to help so badly and simply would not be denied.
Finally, out of pure desperation, I came up with a plan. I told Lindsay that once I had ironed the shirt I would place it on a hanger. Then, if she would fasten the top button of the shirt so it will stay on the hanger, that would be a great help.
Lindsay was thrilled! I congratulated myself on my brilliant parenting skills, and I pushed on until all 14 shirts were ironed. I then tossed them into my suitcase and headed off to the airport.
After long flights and endless delays, I finally made it to my first stop just outside of Liverpool, England. I arose early in the morning and began to get ready for the day. As I went to put on my shirt I realized I couldn't do it because Lindsay had not only buttoned the top button, she had buttoned every button on the shirt. Somewhat irritated, I undid all of the buttons, put the shirt on, re-buttoned them and rushed on with my day.
The second day as I was getting ready, I discovered, to my great horror and dismay that Lindsay had buttoned every button on every shirt. So each morning I began the day with a somewhat frustrating and irritating routine of unbuttoning and buttoning my shirt. This continued for several more days.
On the morning of the sixth day, as I was going through the buttoning ritual, everything changed. In the midst of my unbuttoning exercise I found myself thinking about my Lindsay. With each button I was thinking of her dazzling smile, her charismatic personality, her tender heart, her many talents, her special spirit and her extraordinary soul. I realized that all of those buttons where simply Lindsay's way of making sure that I remembered her while I was far away. I have never looked at a button the same since — and even today when buttoning a shirt, I still find myself remembering my Lindsay.
Lindsay has graduated from college, married, moved to Texas and brought two beautiful boys into the world. As a grandpa, I now find myself hoping that they too will remember.
Remembering matters — the world seems to be crumbling, and much of it comes from being forgetful about the people and principles that should matter most in our lives.
Remembering is a critical catalyst for positive action. What we remember, our children will likely know, and what our children know, our grandchildren will likely possess. For faith, freedom and family, remembering should be a regular look back in order to more clearly see what lies ahead.