I was at one of my town’s parks for the Fourth of July festivities. There were people everywhere. Many showed up early in the morning to claim their spot, put down their canopies, and roll out their grills. Everyone wants a good spot.
A group of us from church gathered to promote vacation bible school registrations and to watch the fireworks. I heard someone comment that being there felt very American. The red, white, and blue colored cookies. The flag on the pole near the center of the park. The stars and the stripes on t-shirts and visors. The hamburgers and hot dogs.
I looked around, and I did see America. People of different backgrounds. English and Spanish spoken interchangeably. Dozens of ways to prepare and present potato salad. Most everyone standing up with their hand over their heart during the national anthem.
I saw this, and I started asking myself what it really felt like to be American and if those feelings were something that we experience on more than special occasions when we don’t have to show up to the office.
Freedom was the word most shared and read on Independence Day. It was everywhere and on everyone. Freedom to celebrate and attend the parade. Freedom not go if I didn’t want to go. Freedom to wave a little flag. Freedom to not feel so patriotic and to participate quietly.
Most of us repeat the phrases we heard over and over this week. “Home of the brave,” and “freedom isn’t free.” I think we know what these sayings mean, but I’m not sure we always know how to live up to their meanings.
When I first left my apartment on the Fourth, I saw a large flag hung from the second floor apartment walkway. My neighbor said that he hung it there. It was the first time he had put it on display since it had been given to him at his father’s funeral.
The flag was the most beautiful thing I saw that day. It was large and well made. The kind that would be folded up and presented to a World War II veteran who had fought in Europe. My neighbor shared that with me about his dad. The flag was a little more beautiful after knowing this.
Patriotism comes in all kinds of ways, feelings, and expressions. To some, it’s always celebratory. To others, it’s complicated. The most…