Memorial Day 1945 in Margraten, Netherlands

Memorial Day 1945

If your Memorial Day was similar to ours, you spent the day with family and friends. Everyone brought delicious things to eat, and you enjoyed some fresh air in your backyard or a park. Everyone stuffed themselves, enjoyed the sunshine, and caught up on the family happenings.

The first Memorial Day in the Netherlands in 1945 was quite different. For years, the country had been occupied by the Nazis, and thousands of Dutch citizens had been imprisoned and worked to death in concentration camps. In late 1944, the Allied forces began to liberate them. The war was not over yet, the fighting was fierce, and thousands of Allied soldiers were killed. There were so many bodies that they needed to have a place to bury their dead.

The little town of Margraten responded to the need. They gave housing to the exhausted surviving soldiers, and made a cemetery just outside the town for those who had perished. Over 17,000 American soldiers were buried there (although many were later reburied in the US). The villagers helped bury the fallen soldiers. And for the next 70 years, the people of the village cared for the graves. Families in Margraten “adopted” soldiers and brought flowers and wreaths to their gravesides on birthdays and holidays. The next generation continued the tradition, and to this day, the townspeople still bring bouquets to honor the ones who liberated them.

You can read more about Memorial Day 1945 in this article by the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/americans-gave-their-lives-to-defeat-the-nazis-the-dutch-have-never-forgotten/2015/05/24/92dddab4-fa79-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html

Including in the article is this link to about 8 minutes of silent video footage taken on May 30, 1945:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn7hmIMT9tc

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Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer – by John Grisham (2010)

Theodore Boone - Kid Lawyer

Theodore is the only child of a husband-wife lawyer team in the small town of Strattenburg. His father handles real estate deals, his mother divorce cases. He hangs out at his parents’ office after school, and is well-known at the local courthouse. Conversations at dinner often center around the law. At 13 years of age, Theo already has a better grasp of legal matters and defense strategies than most adults. His dream is to become a skilled lawyer like his parents.

Theo’s fascination with everything legal earns him the nickname “kid lawyer”. He answers classmates’ questions about the law. He also goes to the courthouse with his friend April to offer moral support. When the trial of accused killer Pete Duffy starts, the government class is allowed to see the opening arguments. Theo is immediately fascinated with the case, and gets personally involved.

Grisham’s first novel for pre-adults is a fun read. I enjoyed the unusual-ness of the Boone family. His close friendship with April, whose life is rather messed up, added to the story. Lastly, Theo’s crazy Uncle Ike was terrific. This story can be enjoyed by readers spanning middle-school, high school, and adult ages. A copy of this book can be found in the teen or young adult section of your local library.

Butterworth Takes A Vacation – by Bill Butterworth (1997)

Butterworth Takes A Vacation

Bill is a teacher who is raising five kids as a single parent. Summer has arrived, and best buddy Edmund invites Bill and the kids to go camping with his family for a week. Past experiences in the great outdoors have not gone well for Bill, but the kids really want to go. Hey, he thinks, it’ll be good to spend some quality time out in nature with family and friends. After all, it can’t possibly be as bad as the last trip, can it? So they camp at Happy Clam Park, but the vacation isn’t quite what Bill hoped it would be.

I laughed myself silly at some of the mishaps they encountered. The story reminded me of the old tv show “The Odd Couple”, with the two friends Felix and Oscar. They have totally different temperaments, and drive each other crazy as they try to share an apartment. In the same way, Bill and Edmund’s relationship takes a beating during the week. They have to decide if they can get past the petty arguments they’re having. This is a good read about friends, faith, and forgiveness.

 
Excerpt from pages 56-57:

Once again I was left with no other recourse… I had to beseech the Lord.

“Dear God,” I started praying in a silent panic, “we really need you here. You are the Wonderful Counselor. You are the Prince Of Peace. You are the Everlasting Father. You are the Bread of Life. You are the Good Shepherd. You are the Great Physician. There are so many profound and wonderful titles for you. I was just wondering… since you used to live in the Tabernacle – do you still remember how to pitch a tent? If so, could you demonstrate right here on the beach, Lord? That’s familiar turf for you right? You helped out Moses in a big way when he was stuck on the beach by the Red Sea. You walked on water in Galilee. You caused the fisherman’s nets to be filled on the sea. Could you just do one more seaside miracle? Could you help us pitch this tent? Please? Amen.”

I stared at the potential tent, still collapsed on the ground, wondering if God would hear my prayer. Maybe we’re in the wrong hemisphere, I thought. I guess you gotta be over in the Holy Land for beach-related miracles to occur.

“Why are you staring at the tent and mumbling?” Brandon asked.

“Nothing,” I answered.

“Well,” he went on, while you were off in La-La land, something very incredible has happened!” His confident smile assured me that he wasn’t kidding.

“What are you talking about?”

Without a word, he turned to his left, pointing to a spot about a hundred feet down the beach. I followed his index finger to God’s answer to my prayer. Another family was pitching a tent that appeared to be exactly like ours. And best of all, they were campers! They clearly knew what they were doing.

“It’s a miracle!” I uttered. “It really is a miracle! I had just prayed to God to help us pitch the tent. Instead of raising it up by himself, he brought this other family onto the beach so we could watch them. We’ll just do what they do, and we’ll have the tent up in no time. This family is from heaven itself!”

“Actually, their car is right over there and the license plate says they’re from Nebraska, but I know what you mean,” Brandon teased. “Anyway, I think you’re right. It’s a miracle. Look more closely at that family. Not only do they know what they’re doing, but they also have a teenage daughter who is fine. There is a God.”

Brandon’s relationship with the Lord was on a different plane than mine, but whether it was tent-pitching instructions or fine teenage girls, at that moment we both had to agree with the New Testament teaching that every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Food Trucks

Food Truck

Each month our church brings in a “Feeding America” semi-truck loaded down with surplus food, and we distribute it to whoever needs it. People living around the church begin lining up along the shade of the trees on the south end of the parking lot an hour, sometimes two hours before the truck arrives. We set up long tables in two rows outside, ready to have food piled on them. Then we wait for the semi to arrive.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of being one of the volunteers for the food truck. About 5:15, a cheer went up as the semi slowly pulled into the parking lot, maneuvering between the two rows of tables. The side panels of the truck were whipped open, and we began to unload the food. Some things merely had to be set on the tables, other things had to be put into plastic bags. We never know ahead of time what will be in the truck. It’s like a grab bag. This month’s offerings turned out to be: potatoes, cabbage heads, carrots, sweet peppers, yogurt, canned milk, onions, tomatoes, and apples. Ah, a nice healthy mix, I thought.

The people began to file past the tables, and we filled bags, boxes, and wagons with food for them. Each guest was invited to stop inside the church for some cake and punch, as we were celebrating the tenth anniversary of the food truck. Every bit of food was given away, with the exception of a few bad potatoes. Our jovial, friendly truck driver closed up the side panels and drove off with a smile. See you back next month!

Having recently read the book “Toxic Charity”, I wondered if I would view our food truck differently than I had in the past. As we distributed the food, I observed that just about everyone was dressed simply – mostly in t-shirts and jeans. They arrived in older used cars. They looked pretty much like us, simple working folks. The sort of folks that are just squeezing by financially, but they make too much money to qualify for food stamps. The need for a little extra food for their families seemed quite genuine, and each of them was appreciative of the fruit and vegetables.

If you have the chance to participate in a local food pantry or food truck, I would encourage you to do so. Don’t worry about whether or not the people coming through the line are in true need, or are taking advantage of it. Just smile and share what you’ve been given. Blessings given out have a way of coming back to you.

Toxic Charity – by Robert Lupton (2011)

Toxic Charity

Robert Lupton has worked among the poor in the United States, particularly Atlanta, for over 40 years. During that time, he has learned much about the best ways to help people. There are approaches that work well, some that only temporarily help, and some that actually hurt communities in the long run.

The problem of poverty has been with the human race almost since the beginning of our existence. God told the Israelites in Moses’ time: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) Centuries later, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” (Matthew 26:11) He fed thousands of hungry people as an example for us to follow.

Jump ahead to present times. In the metropolitan area I live in, the number of homeless shelters, housing subsidies, food pantries/trucks/kitchens, clothing banks, free phones, and other helping programs are increasing. But it doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect on the number of impoverished people. Do we just give up? Absolutely not! We still have a responsibility to help our brothers who are struggling. Some of our methods are flawed though. Mr. Lupton gives his thoughtful suggestions on making charity something that truly lifts people up, even though it may take longer to accomplish.

Excerpt from pages 129-130:

Anyone who has served among the poor for any length of time will recognize the following progression:

give once and you elicit appreciation
give twice and you create anticipation
give three times and you create expectation
give four times and it becomes entitlement
give five times and you establish dependency

Excerpt from page 179:

But when we mainly look on the negative aspects of a community, we overlook the legitimate business entrepreneurs, the good parents, the wise grandmothers. When we focus on what is wrong, we miss what is right. And our strategies for helping are driven by combating problems rather than strengthening potential.

Skateboarding Downtown

skateboard

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more difficult to drive downtown, it got more difficult. The main street, Division Avenue, used to be four lanes wide, two for northbound and two for southbound. The lanes were very skinny though, and you risked scraping your car against the cars in the parking lane. The road could not be widened, as the century-old buildings were built up to the sidewalk, and the sidewalk up to the street curb. Delivery trucks would park half-way in the driving lanes and unload during morning rush hour, much to the annoyance of other drivers. Almost constant road repairs hindered the traffic flow. Water mains and sewer pipes frequently needed fixing. The asphalt surface kept developing potholes. For the better part of the year, drivers played dodge-ball with mammoth sinkholes.

Several years ago the city decided they had found a solution for our four skinny lanes – turn them into two lanes, one for each direction, with a left-turn lane at intersections. Adjacent to the the driving lanes they created bike lanes, since cycling downtown had increased. Ah, at last we could drive in a lane wide enough to not bump into anyone! But due to the peculiarities of the street, the bike lane would, in places, abruptly stop because there wasn’t enough room for it, so the cyclists would suddenly merge into the car lane, then the bike lane would begin again and all was well. It was – and still is – an awkward arrangement that mystifies first-time drivers to the downtown. The rest of us have gotten used to it. Other streets in the downtown area have been modified to add bike lanes, which is a good idea on some of the streets, but the chronic poor conditions of the roads make them difficult to bike on. (The streets by the government offices are the exception, with quality concrete and nice wide lanes.)

This morning, over my cup of coffee and oatmeal, I read that the city has decided it will now allow people to skateboard in the traffic lanes. In fact, if you feel like rollerskating or rollerblading in the traffic with cars, that’s okay too. What??? Were the seven city commissioners who unanimously voted for this sober when they made the decision? We still have recurring potholes, pavement cracks, endless road repairs, pedestrians that just walk into the road whenever they feel like it, and bikes darting in and out of the car lanes. Do we really want to add skateboarders to the mix of things to watch out for when we’re driving?
Here’s the link to the story:

http://woodtv.com/2015/05/12/gr-oks-skateboarding-on-streets-downtown/

This is going to be a legal nightmare for the city the first time that a 15-year-old kid is rollerblading or skateboarding in the street, wipes out because of some bad cracks or a sinkhole he/she didn’t see in time, and gets hit by the car behind him. The driver of the car will see their insurance premiums go up because they hit him/her. The police will make money off the citations, and the hospital/doctor’s office will get more business. Come to think of it, maybe this whole thing is just set up to be a moneymaker from the start…

Corduroy – by Don Freeman (1976)

Corduroy

One of my all-time favorite kids’ books is “Corduroy”. It’s the story of a stuffed bear that lives in a department store. A button has fallen off his corduroy pants, and he tries his best to find it. Eventually the teddy-bear is adopted by a child that loves him, and he gets a new button. It’s a simple story that warms my heart every time I read it.

You just can’t beat a good pair of corduroys. They’re sturdy and warm, and can be worn for most of the year. Men, women, and kids wear them. They wash up well, and don’t need ironing if you pull them straight out of the dryer. Also, they never go out of style.

Today turned out to be a great corduroy day. It’s mid-May, almost summer, but the temperature topped out at a mere 49 degrees. So I wore a pair of gray cords today. Tomorrow I’ll probably grab the tan ones, or maybe the black ones. There’s nothing quite like them…