The Greatest Generation could be adequately described in many different ways. Words like courageous, heroic, and hard-working immediately come to mind. But perhaps the word that best describes them would be selflessness. Coming of age during the Great Depression and serving in WWII meant that every one born from 1900-1920 knew what it was to do more with less, lend a helping hand, and work hard for the greater good. They knew much about sacrifice and service.
Current and future generations could learn much from the Greatest Generation about selfless, sacrificial service, to be sure. But the greatest teacher of selflessness is the One who taught the selfless generation, Jesus.
In the hours leading up to His death Jesus girded Himself with a towel and performed one of the most menial and dirty tasks known to the ancient world–He washed feet. When asked why He would do such a thing He answered, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Jesus is the ultimate example of selflessness, sacrifice, and service. He “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45), He “did not please Himself ” (Rom. 15:3) but rather “Humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).
We live in the most selfish time in modern history. From entitlement to self-gratification, one would be hard pressed to find a major current cultural ailment not connected to selfishness in some way. What can be done to correct course? The only substantive answer is to follow the example of Christ and serve. Humble service is the only way to greatness (Mark 10:43-44), and by seeking opportunities to serve others we learn practically to put ourselves last. Perhaps, then our generation may have a little more in common with the greatest one our country has ever known.