For some people the idea of sacrifice is a completely alien concept. They spend their entire lives expecting others to make sacrifices on their behalf, but it never even occurs to them to return the favor. They quickly fall into the habit of constantly taking without ever giving back. In their minds they are the center of the universe and they expect everyone else to treat them that way. For these individuals the thought of actually slowing down on the interstate to allow someone else to merge into traffic is as unrealistic as the idea of donating a small amount of money each month to a relief agency that could use those funds to save the lives of hungry children. In both cases these people tend to ignore the needs of others and refuse to make even the smallest of sacrifices that would benefit someone else. 

The notion of “sacrifice” is so unpopular that here in the United States it is considered political suicide for a candidate running for office to even utter the word. We expect our leaders to have answers to every problem our nation faces, but these solutions cannot require middle class Americans to make even the slightest of sacrifices let alone significant changes in their lifestyles. We are more than willing to have other segments of our society disproportionately bear the brunt of cutbacks, layoffs and higher taxes. We don’t mind if the poor get poorer as long we are left alone. Politicians know that sacrifices are an absolute necessity, but they lack the courage to tell the truth to people who do not want to hear it. Both the office holders and the constituents dance around the obvious, ignoring reality and preferring instead to hope against hope that someone else will do the dirty work that they are afraid to address.

By its very nature sacrifice can be difficult. It can sometimes be painful and even life altering, but for humanity to survive and thrive it is critical that it be a part of our lives. Because of its importance, we admire those whose jobs require sacrifice for our benefit. Police officers, firefighters and those in the military are each willing to sacrifice their lives so that we can live safely and in peace. Individuals bravely donate organs so that complete strangers will have the opportunity to regain their health. And every day around the world women courageously give birth, risking their own lives in order to bring their babies into the world, often under dangerous circumstances. Every one of us benefits in some way because of the sacrifices of others. The reason you are able to read this is because a series of human beings have made sacrifices for you throughout your life. 

However, the majority of us never think about giving back. We are so consumed with our own lives that we never stop to consider those who desperately need our help. This does not occur because we are immoral, or selfish or narrow-minded – it happens because we are so caught up in our own issues and challenges that we fail to realize that, for the most part, what we think of as problems are insignificant compared to what 1 out of every 6 human beings on earth face every day. To the one billion people trapped in extreme poverty our lives appear to be perfect. Middle class Americans do not have to dig graves for their children because they died excruciating deaths from hunger. None of us witness a young boy getting his legs blown off by a landmine. We do not live with the fear of malaria each time our child is bitten by a mosquito. Death does not rain down from the sky as a super power unleashes missile attacks that leave bodies twisted and charred on the streets as “collateral damage”. 

But for hundreds of millions of human beings this is what they experience every day of their lives…When one small child dies from hunger it occurs because every other person on earth allowed it to happen. All six billion of us failed to do what was necessary to feed that one child. In other words, none of us was willing to make the simple sacrifices that would have saved that child’s life. The World Food Programme can feed a child a life saving meal for 25 cents. To feed that child for one year cost $91.25. But even this ridiculously small sacrifice seems to be too much to ask of us, because each year 6,570,000 children die from hunger and related causes. To feed all of these children for one year would cost $599,512,500. So for less than 600 million dollars we could save the lives of more than 6 million children each year.

But what kind of sacrifice would that require of our nation?…How about one aircraft carrier? Each Nimitz-class carrier cost 4.5 billion dollars to produce. Please stop and consider this example for a moment. Would your quality of life, your personal freedom or the safety of your family be impacted in any way if the United States had just one less aircraft carrier? Of course not. Our entire military philosophy is based on “overkill”. There would be no impact to America whatsoever if we reduced our defense spending, which is currently at more than 700 billion per year, by less than one percent. But the impact of that tiny sacrifice would be incredible because the lives of more than 6 million innocent children could be spared…and there would be almost 4 billion dollars left over. 

Whether or not we are willing to make the sacrifice of cutting our defense budget by a fraction in order to save millions of lives is a clear reflection of our character as a nation. Unfortunately, until now we have been unwilling to trade one ship for 6 million lives. And of course the irony is that the very thing we insist we must have, is designed expressly to take human life as effectively and efficiently as possible. We are making the financial decision as a nation to take life rather than to save life. The idea of sacrificing one aircraft carrier to save millions of children doesn’t carry weight with us. We would rather have the capability to attack the countries where these children live than to feed them. It is a choice we consistently make, and God help any politician who even mentions the idea of cutting defense spending. Our ability and right to kill supersedes the right of a five-year old not to starve to death in the dirt. 

Because it can save lives, sacrifice is one of the most noble characteristics possessed by humanity. It is compassion put into action. It is a willingness to use our intellect instead of our base emotions. It is the opportunity for us to be great and to achieve the true potential of our species. Those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy lives of comfort and abundance need to remember those who live in far different circumstances. If we flip the military example around we can see the tradeoff more clearly. The parents of more than six million children make the ultimate sacrifice each year so that our country can have one more aircraft carrier. If you think that is a fair trade than you are to be pitied. You have lost your sense of humanity and you are choosing to ignore the reality of the world around you. But if you are able to see the injustice of such inequity it is time to take a stand. It is time for individuals as well as governments to act responsibly. It is time to be brave and to act courageously on behalf of the innocent who have no representation. 



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