I was raised to feel lucky to be an American. I woke up early this July 4th morning, and was inspired to read the Declaration of Independence, word for word, perhaps for the first time since I last visited Washington D.C. as a tourist with my folks.
My dad, who is 87, and one of the individuals who fought in a war to defend this country, reads that special document every day. He keeps a copy of it in a frame he made himself in his workshop. And in honor of today, he took it off the wall and put it on an easel at the front door for all visitors to see. In case the wording was too small, he made typed photocopies of the Declaration of Independence as give-aways too, and stacked those up beside a red, white and blue striped hat he found. And of course he is flying the American flag. My mom and dad are old school. These things all have meaning, as they should, and it's more than just a day at the park.
And though I'm looking forward to grilling organic chicken sausages and goofing off with my family and friends, which is always something to look forward to -- there is an added layer beneath it all today - something that feels almost holy.
All the corn on the cob, hot dogs, watermelon and sparklers will merely be the window dressing. At the end of the day, when the magnificent fireworks go off "in the "twilight's last gleaming..." I'll have tears in my eyes. Why? During those quiet moments, I'll be pondering the reality of our freedom, and the complications of our world. It will overwhelm me. I'll be flooded with the thoughts I usually resist, like, 'there are too many despots running countries, famine and disease cripples too many lives, there is marginalization of women in many cultures, there is gender imbalance, and on and on.' My mind will run at the mouth so-to-speak.
Most importantly, though, as the last fireworks display disappears into the night sky, and we all hug and wander back to our respective homes, I'll be aware of the fact that freedom isn't free -- and men and women from these United States, and from our allies in countries that have declared themselves our friends from around the world, are still paying for it with their lives. How strange is seems for us to be on the other side of the world, enjoying ourselves seemingly without a care.
I'll be thinking how grateful I am that my parents raised me and my siblings to feel lucky to be Americans - to be patriotic, to honor our servicemen and women. I hope we pass the torch, and teach our children to cherish freedom -- to respect it and to honor it for our allies, as well.
By the way, our Declaration of Independence is worth a re-read now and again.
Happy 4th of July to one and all.