It’s been awhile since I’ve heard those words because it’s been awhile since I’ve been on an airplane. And I have to confess – when I was on that airplane, getting ready for takeoff, I did not give my full attention to the person going over the safety instructions which always included the words “put on your own oxygen mask first.” I’ve never really given further thought to those words, but upon reflection now, they do seem to be quite selfish on the surface.
Seems like they are advocating looking out for myself rather than those seated around me. But actually, there is more to it. What if I am traveling with or seated by an elderly, handicapped or a very young person? They may need my help, but if I don’t secure my mask first, thereby ensuring that I remain conscious, I am not able to lend anyone else aide. In other words, if I don’t take care of myself first, I am not able to take care of others who might need my assistance. Unconscious, I am of no help to anyone. So maybe, putting on my oxygen mask first is not ultimately as selfish as it seems to be.
If I don’t help myself, I have no ability to help others. It is the same for the United States – if she doesn’t put on her oxygen mask first, she will have no ability to help those in need around the world. America has long been a sustainer of peoples on every continent. Out of our abundance we share with those in need in developing nations, with those devastated by natural disasters and with those oppressed and suffering in other countries. We produce an abundance of food and other goods and services which sustain those living in poverty in other nations.
MAP International is one U.S. organization which supplies donated medicines and medical supplies to those who need them around the world. They also work to provide clean water, health training and CHE (community health evangelism) to poor communities in other countries, helping them to become self-sustaining and therefore self sufficient, with the goal of them then being able to help other nearby villages (communities) to improve conditions, just as they were themselves helped. There are many other organizations from our country that have ministries of caring for people and their needs in countries on every continent.
Our government supplies a lot of aide but much is donated and delivered by private charities, churches and other groups who share out of their abundance to bless those in other nations. Family Legacy has built many schools throughout the city of Lusaka, Zambia and staffed them with trained Zambian teachers. Through the sponsorship of many donors, orphans and other vulnerable children who would not otherwise be in school, are given tuition, uniforms, books, food for their families, health care and the opportunity to go to school every day. Through education they are given hope and a future.
There are countless organizations and churches in our country that send people and supplies around the world to bring clean water, health care, education and the good news of the gospel to many who would not otherwise have access to these things. We are free to participate in these ongoing endeavors or not. I think of the times I went to Haiti – of the churches and schools we supported and worked with there in addition to an agriculture program and a small business training program. Farmers and business owners took time away from their jobs to help those in another country succeed. That’s what is possible when you are successful, you can lend a hand to others.
When your country allows you to be successful and free, you are free to lift others up in whatever ways you choose to do so. We are able to live out the words in Isaiah 58:6-7, where God says –
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
The world has long looked to the U.S. as a source of help in times of trouble. But if we don’t put on our own oxygen mask first, we will not be able to help any other nation. If our economy collapses, if our farmers can’t grow crops, if people don’t have jobs, if we are no longer energy independent, – we have nothing to offer anyone else. If we are no longer free, we are no longer that light of hope to refugees and other oppressed peoples around the globe. America has long been the champion of the oppressed, but if we ourselves become the oppressed, what hope is left to the world?
How sad for those who have risked everything to come here, only to find Freedom floundering, fighting for her very life as liberties continue to be lost while anyone who would object is silenced or cancelled into compliance with whatever today’s new edicts might be.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of My people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain.” (Isaiah 10:1-4)
Oppressive decrees? Isaiah could have been writing those words today. The world is watching, holding its collective breath, waiting to see if this nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, . . . can long endure.” (Gettysburg Address) We were the great experiment, the newest of nations, founded out of our forefathers’ desire to be free to worship God and not the current King of England. We were a nation founded on God’s laws, including equality for all, as we are all created in God’s image. The idea that we derive our rights from God and not from government, or a monarch or a dictator or any other person, was revolutionary at the time of our founding.
This new country drew many to her shores who were in search of the freedoms they lacked in their own homelands. That trend continues to this very day. The opportunity for self determination is something worth sacrificing for, as those who begin new lives here know all too well. But if America doesn’t put on her own oxygen mask first, she will have nothing to offer to the world.
No safe harbor, no light of freedom, no hope for the oppressed, no aide, financial or otherwise, will she have to offer to others. With economic collapse like Venezuela and Zimbabwe have suffered since socialism took hold in their countries, we will be equally destitute. The testimonies of those who have escaped to come here are telling as they recognize what they experienced in their home countries, now happening in the United States.
Maybe wanting America to be great wasn’t such a bad idea after all? I guess it depends on what you do with your “greatness.” Maybe better words would be free or independent or prosperous or strong, any of those would allow us to extend a helping hand to other countries – if we ourselves are free to do so and have the resources to provide aide because we are a strong, prosperous, independent people. A strong military, (providing protection and peace) an economy where everyone is working, as opposed to being dependent on government for aide, (that’s prosperity) and freedom to choose your own path, (unlimited possibilities) – that is a great country – one that provides protection, peace, prosperity and myriad possibilities and paths for its citizens to pursue happiness, their dreams, their God, whatever they want – they are free to choose.
I guess that’s why so many people keep risking so much to come here? People want to start their own businesses, they want to worship unrestricted, they want to pursue their dreams just as the declaration of our independence proclaimed all those years ago – our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” When America is no longer “great” she will not be able to lend that helping hand around the world that the world has come to count on – not unless she puts on her own oxygen mask first.
As citizens, it is up to us to be sure our country’s oxygen mask is on – it is up to us to make our country strong, make her prosperous, make her full of opportunity for everyone, make her safe, make her peaceful, make her law abiding, make her God fearing, make her generous, make her just, make her good, make her free. If these are the attributes of greatness – what is wrong with being great? The world is watching – not wanting to see Freedom fall from the face of the earth. Where will they go when we are no longer free? when we are no longer great?
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
sincerely, Grace Day