It’s another July fourth weekend and I’ve loaded up on enough food to feed a small village. I’ve bargained for the best deal on fireworks from the plethora of vendors lining the streets in my city declaring they’ve got the greatest deal of them all. It seems I’ve done my part in upholding Independence Day traditions. Oh, did I mention I’m headed to the fireworks to fight my way through the crowd of thousands where I will spend more time in traffic than I actually do watching the sparkling phenom? Hey it’s tradition and you can’t change tradition on a whim. Yep. That should about do it. That’s the Fourth.
And then again, if this is what this holiday has amounted to, then it has gone the way of Christmas and Thanksgiving—we indulge ourselves and the few in our circle and have a hard time explaining what the holiday is about.
Was it the Pilgrims or the Quakers at Plymouth Rock? Were Santa and baby Jesus born on the same day?
I have a strong suspicion that when the founding fathers broke away from Britain a couple hundred years back they had a little more in mind than popping illegal firecrackers when they talked about freedom. Now, this was not just freedom to worship and establish our own without the tyrannical rule of a King or Queen but freedom in a country where men and women could choose and elect a government that represented their beliefs and the true reflection of the people. (O.K., we’ve had a hard time explaining some things. My ancestors are giving me an evil chill because nothing justifies slavery.)
But let’s not get mixed up. By no stretch are we perfect, the Norman Rockwell image is alive only in our heads, but eying national news, even if for a moment or two (Egypt did what to Morsy?) you know that we are better off than many. We have progressed in many ways even if we have a while to get to where we need to be. But yet we moan and complain and are often annoyingly ungrateful. (You won’t be able to install my pool until when?) This freedom doesn’t make us carefree or less engaged but our burden transitions from being confining and dictating to being lighter and less intrusive. It makes room for individual expression.
And now we have the responsibility to teach the world– by example. To show them that freedom isn’t demonstrated by being self-serving, pretentious elitists. It is conveyed by creating a vested interest in others. It is shown by being kind and compassionate and realizing the humanity in peace and helping those who cannot help themselves. It means that we are empathetic towards others—even those who don’t look like us. In other words, we are indeed our brothers’ keeper. Freedom carries weight and expectation. This liberty has nothing to do with doing whatever you please. It is reflected in being able to make choices and to grow and express ourselves as individuals. It is the opportunity to use our specific talents and gifts to help others. (Notice the theme here…others?)
Freedom is a precious thing.
It reminds me of the ring bearer at a wedding. He toddles toward the front of the church, short arms outstretched, careful to uphold this fancy pillow, just as he’s been instructed to do. He’s tiny and seemingly insignificant but he is carrying the most important symbol of the bond, the undying love of the couple standing at the head of the altar. All eyes are on him, watching and waiting, his responsibility is great even if he doesn’t grasp this truth.
In the beginning we too, as Americans seemed insignificant. But now, all eyes are on us, watching and waiting. It’s our responsibility to walk the walk of the free with dignity and grace–fully understanding this truth.