Not To Rain On the Parade, But…
When the final crepe paper, flag-laden bicycle rides by, parade watchers stow away folding chairs, last fireworks pop and fizzle, and I swear never to eat another hotdog (well, maybe just one at the ballgame next week), July 4th draws to a close.
For a few days, the reminders that one of the nation’s most important holidays occurred are leftover red, white, and blue carnations in the marked down section of the grocery store, neighborhood revelers shooting off pop bottle rockets late at night, and four-legged creatures with bad cases of PTSD because they don’t understand the connection between loud explosions and celebrations.
The traditions and events are wonderful and some of my best childhood memories grew out of the hot and balmy, sunburned shoulders and noses day. However, the real reason to celebrate–not only on the fourth day of July–but for a lifetime, is nestled in the core of what it means to be an American–blessed to live, yes, actually get up each day, take a deep breath, and figuratively breathe in the scrumptious flavor of freedom.
Respect, Gratitude, Hope, and Love … the Real Reasons To Celebrate the 4th of July
Respect Makes Us Just the Right Size
When I reflect on what these two gentlemen sacrificed for our country, it’s hard to understand defamation of the American flag, refusing to stand for the National Anthem, and classrooms devoid of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Instead, jaw-dropping, stand-up-and-take notice respect seems the more humane and appropriate response.
Admittedly, learning about our nation’s history in books, movies, lectures, or even watching the evening news to keep abreast of current happenings, falls short of the same impact as shaking the hand of an active or veteran military man or woman or looking into the eyes of one who has witnessed more than I can or would want to imagine. The sacrifices of being away from family and home, often in the presence of real danger, to instead serve our greater country, is deserving of a thoughtful pause and recognition for selfless acts and choices.
Respect is a unique concept, for being in the presence of someone held in high regard has an interesting effect–it’s like being on solid ground and ten feet tall, yet at the same time, it shrinks you down and humbles the soul–a healthy reminder it’s not “me” but “we” who’s important. Respecting others resizes us.
Gratitude Clarifies Our Blessings
It’s humbling to admit my existence would be substantially different and most likely dire had not other Americans boldly fought for the freedoms often taken for granted. I go about my days– a mixture of work and pleasure–able to purchase an abundance of healthy food, refill my water bottle until my cup overfloweth, pray and read my bible without fear of persecution, and celebrate life’s blessings with my family and friends. Life is good. I am fortunate. Why? Due in large part to the service of others who came long, long before my time to bravely establish our country, those who maintained our independence over the centuries, and those who commit to protecting all we’ve come to often take for granted. Gratitude gently turns us around, away from ourselves, and points us toward those who bless us.
Hope Reminds Us There Is Reason To Celebrate
I have a true confession. It’s more comfortable, easier to digest … even safer to respect and thank our military service people when they are strangers or acquaintances. There’s a distance that keeps emotions and fears with, well … the other families. But that’s different now. Our oldest of three boys is at West Point and soon to confirm his military commitment. Sure, he’ll graduate from a prestigious university and his accomplishments before he’s reached his mid-twenties will be numerous beyond his years. However, the overarching commitment he has made to the values of Duty, Honor, and Country give me hope–hope that our great country has a blessed future because of the selflessness of these young men and women who believe in what’s good, noble, and worthy of preserving and protecting.
But the Greatest of These Is Love
My pastor recently preached on 1 Corinthians 13–a favorite wedding passage and commonly found scripture on plaques and postings. I’ve heard numerous teachings about the well-known words, but I’d never been struck by its truth and implications like last Sunday. Even after twenty-seven years of marriage, the confirmation as to how short of ultimate love my mortal soul continually falls is a nagging reality and one not to be remedied fully until I’m in the presence of God. By design, we are called to love, and the challenge is it’s a lifelong pursuit–even within our own microcosmic worlds.
Even still, the scripture reminds me of the importance and vastness of love. This 4th of July, when the firework displays crescendo and the American flags wave in the breeze, let’s take a moment or two to pause and reflect on those who deserve our respect and gratitude for the hope we have for our great country. And despite its imperfections, divisions, and challenges, celebrate the real reasons for the holiday … America … the beautiful … the land that we love.
What are your thoughts about the upcoming holiday? If you know someone who serves or served in the military, I encourage you to reach out, take hold of his or her hand, and say thank you.
Jayme H. Mansfield is an author, artist, and educator—and feels a bit incomplete when she’s not juggling all three balls. An award-winning author, her debut book Chasing the Butterfly, is a book club favorite and Amazon bestseller. Based on a true family story that begs to be told, her soon-to-be released novel, RUSH, provides a tension-filled, moving tale of a pioneer woman’s determination to survive.
She and her husband live near the base of the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains, having survived raising three hungry, hockey-playing sons. Currently, a very needy Golden Retriever runs the roost. When Jayme isn’t writing, she teaches art to children and adults at her long-time art studio, Piggy Toes. Stay in touch Jayme on Twitter @JaymeMansfield and on her author Facebook, JaymeHMansfield. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jaymehmansfield.com.