Why don't they do something?

Published May 25, 2023

By Tom Campbell

America in 1944 was vastly different from the nation we are today. As a student of history, I’ve read much about the leaders of that era - Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Patton and others. I marvel at how they faced the challenges of the day and were willing to make great sacrifices to preserve peace. 
Having read so much about this era, one of my bucket-list goals has been to visit Normandy and see the site of a momentous day in history.
We arrived in Paris late Saturday and Sunday morning found us worshipping at the American Church in Paris, established almost 100 years ago. Some 1,100 people heard a wonderful service, led by Senior Pastor, Rev. Paul Rock, an eloquent retired Presbyterian minister. Rock’s sermon text was Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan, one many of us have heard often. This charismatic minister recounted how two holy men had passed by the man beaten and left to die beside the road. They walked on by this man in need. 
Why didn’t they do something? Indeed, both saw the man was in distress and in need of help. How could they possibly just walk on by.
Pastor Rock equated this story to modern times, saying we see plenty of injustices and people who are visibly in need, so why do we just turn our heads and keep on going? To be sure there are plenty of reasons not to get involved. I’m busy and don’t have time to deal with it right now. Getting involved might hurt my professional life, my reputation, might make me enemies and cost money and time. Besides, I don’t know enough and it’s not my job. Are these reasons or just excuses?
Pastor Rock kept drilling, highlighting the partisan political divides so obvious today. It is easier to ignore the vitriol, turn our heads from all the anger and hatred and just walk away from the ugliness. But what happens when we do this? Will this bring about change or will the unpleasantness continue to fester? Will those spewing this garbage feel further empowered when they don’t encounter anyone standing up to them?
We acknowledge that getting into a screaming match or name calling won’t change the one full of animus, any more than just passively allowing it to continue. What to do?
Pastor Rock suggested one good approach was to firmly and calmly say to the offender, “You know, I don’t see things that way. Can I share with you how I view it?” If nothing else the speaker will know that his or her opinion isn’t the only one, maybe not even the prevalent view. 
The preacher then delivered the closer, asking each of us whether we wanted our tombstones to say, “He meant well,” or would we prefer it read, “He got involved and was a bridge builder who breached the chasm?”
 I was still internalizing that soul-searching Sunday sermon several days later as we arrived in Normandy and saw where 160,000 troops did something never before attempted, landing on five beaches on June 6, 1944. At the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer it took your breath to see 9,386 crosses signifying those who paid the highest price.
We were fortunate to attend a brief ceremony paying tribute to those Americans. Those of us who had worn this country’s uniform were asked to stand front and center of the attendees, staring at a statue representing American youth, while a few words of tribute were spoken. The crowd was then asked to do an about-face, observing both the American flag and that sea of white crosses. All joined in singing proudly as The National Anthem was played. It was quite moving, but when Taps was played there wasn’t a dry eye among us. 
Later, walking along Omaha beach we saw the formidable cliffs our American troops had to scale to reach the Germans. We were reminded of the assault, the bloody beach, the waters teeming with equipment and men trying to come ashore. I got a small jar of sand from Omaha Beach and have placed it so I see it every day and remember D-Day.
The Normandy experience will forever change the way I observe Memorial Day. Those 9,386 and many others who have served our country did something. They did their duty. As we mourn and honor those men and women this Memorial Day, perhaps they are calling to us, asking us, “Why don’t you do something?”