We the People.
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. We gather for barbecues and picnics, and we put the sticky summer air out of our minds for the pleasure of spending a day off together. We hear “America the Beautiful” as we watch explosions in the sky.
But what are we really celebrating? Freedom. Liberty. Independence. Those words mean so much more than the stars and stripes; more than tri-cornered hats and a wild midnight ride. These are not the words of past deeds, but the promise of each and every moment.
Freedom is the first car you ever owned, champagne with a sunroof that no longer works, bruised and battered by the street parking of New York. But she runs, and freedom is the purr of the engine (once you add two quarts of oil) calling for you to hop in with blankets, towels, and plenty of sunscreen.
Liberty is a day that feels so light you might think you floated into the clouds, except there isn’t one in the entire sky. Just vast blue above, and vast blue reflected back as the waves roll into shore. That lightness is coming from inside you, and from the friends lying next to you on their towels, and no matter what you talk about on this day, sadness, anger, and frustration seem like distant memories.
Independence is the ability to put it all on hold for those pristine hours- the concerns, the plans, the hopes and dreams. It’s not about pretending the rest of your life has disappeared, it’s about setting your cares aside. Learning to let this moment be enough. And enough, as it turns out, can be more than you thought to ask for.
And then there are fireworks, blazes of glory that force you to pay attention with eyes wide open. Blink and you will literally miss them. For all our technology and artistry, we can’t replicate their majesty in print, or even on live TV. High in space for all to see, each burst seems intended for us alone. They remind me that there are beautiful moments in life that we are not meant to hold on to. If they stayed suspended in the sky, how long before we stopped looking up?
Freedom. Liberty. Independence. They are sitting on a shelf, waiting to be dusted off once a year. They are gifts we can give ourselves every single day.