I love the 4th of July. It’s always been one of my favorite holidays. My childhood home sat just beyond the parade route. It was a day I could count on to be filled with laughter, music, and our favorite foods. Visitors stopped in all day. A full-blown carnival filled the park across the street. And what better nightcap could a young girl ask for than fireworks?
Just last year was the first I came to realize that the 4th of July was not celebrated by all. I was wrong in believing it was one holiday we could all agree to celebrate. That realization brought great sadness. And great shame. I committed to learning more, and to a greater awareness.
Today, one year later, I report that I’m still deeply saddened. I also feel confusion and great uncertainty. But – I did go back to celebrating this holiday. Here’s why.
The USA was born on this day, 245 years ago. That is an undeniable truth. Democracy has been proven over these past 2.5 centuries to be the most powerful government system in the world. Each citizen has an opportunity to participate. Millions of Americans are involved in public service. They protect our country. They deserve our respect.
Are there problems? Yes. So many. They overwhelm me. Equality for all, both in perception and reality. How do we get there?
I can confidently say I have no idea. I pray that leaders will emerge who have answers, solutions, policies, and big plans.
I do believe there is one thing we can do. It may sound trite, or silly. But all we have to do is be nice. I know for me it’s about all I feel capable of doing, and some days even this is pretty hard.
Catch yourself when you are judging someone. It happens all the time. Let go of the guilt, because we all do it. But try to take a deep breath, acknowledge that your experience is different than theirs. Perhaps spend another minute trying to understand their point of view, and then Let. It. Go.
Strung together in a complex network of peers and experiences, opinions shape our values, but one-offs are simply not enough information. Opinions belong among our loved ones, people who ask for them, and in meaningful conversations. Perhaps you share one if, after some evaluation, you decide it could be helpful. They also belong in the voting booth.
Let freedom ring.