It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother, who’s been in heaven one year and four months, and for my wife, the mother of our children. For years I’ve said that Mother’s Day should focus on each living person thanking God for his or her mother and not on honoring all people who happen to be mothers. Here’s some historic support for that idea. From Wikipedia:

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.

Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” 

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. 

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she resented the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday should be on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

She also specifically said that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his 1914 presidential proclamation, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills, and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring on Mother’s Day all who are blessed to be a mother. Yet doing so as the primary or sole focus of Mother’s Day observances can be insensitive to and painful for women whose blessings do not include motherhood. It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.

The bottom line? This Sunday, and every day, take time to thank God for your mother!

Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 (my father’s third birthday) but combat ended about seven months earlier. The Allies and Germany stopped fighting on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Accordingly, November 11, 1918, was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and in 1938 it became an official holiday. But then World War II and the Korean War happened. So on June 1, 1954, Congress amended the commemoration by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

Sometime ago I came across the poem I’m sharing with you today. It’s simply called “A Veterans Day Poem.” A portion that’s overly derogatory to politicians has been omitted.

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, every one.

And though sometimes to his neighbors his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer, since old Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived a very ordinary, quiet sort of life.

He had a job and family, going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing, though a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran goes unnoticed and unsung.

The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small.

He was just a common Veteran and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his likes again.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.

Perhaps a simple headline in the paper that might say:
“Our Country is in Mourning, for a Veteran Died Today.”

Especially next Monday, join me in thanking the women and men respectfully called “veterans” and remember with a thankful heart those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.