Saturday we were visiting the Memorial to Women in Military Service at Arlington Cemetery.  I am embarrassed to say, we had been to Arlington several times and never before bothered to step into this memorial.  It is a wonderful tribute to the contributions women have made to our country throughout history.  Very impressive displays, pictures and personal accounts lined the walls.  An artist was painting portraits of women on duty doing the many and varied jobs required of them while in service, from nursing to airplane maintenance; piloting to commanding.  It was most impressive.

But what struck me above all, and what I can’t stop thinking about, are the engraved quotes.  The main lobby of the memorial is an atrium and above, etched in the glass where the sun streams through to the displays below, are engraved quotes of famous women.  They are not noticeable from below . . . it is only when we went outside on the second level terrace that we noticed them.

Engraved on one of the large glass panels are the words of Clara Barton:  “From the storm lashed decks of the Mayflower to the present hour, woman has stood like a rock for the welfare and the glory of the history of the country and one might well add . . . unwritten, unrewarded, and almost unrecognized.” 

It was as if her quote increased the sunlight that filtered through it to the displays below. I had to return to the atrium to see if I could look up and actually see it from below.  Unrecognized, indeed!  What a subtle and beautifully remarkable memorial to Clara Barton, and to every woman who ever contributed anything to the history of this country.

Carrying this image and this experience with me, it is all I can do to remember her quote accurately.  I want to replace the word “country” with the word “church.”  And the message would still be accurate and still be completely true!  Unrecognized, indeed!

It’s time we began to recognize the gifts of women, not only in our country, but also in our church.  So, when you see a woman offering her time, her gifts, her talent, her sacrifice, dedication, inspiration, touch of comfort, compassionate presence, or  – you fill in the blank –  thank her, for she offers a grace that no one else can give.  Through her service  – to our country, our churches, our neighborhoods, our schools, or our families –   the light of the gospel shines brighter and touches each one of us more profoundly.

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