The Fourth of July has always been a special holiday for me. My childhood memories are of going to Fondulac Park in East Peoria, establishing a beachhead with the family, and then racing around the park for hours with friends.
Later, when I was able to drive myself around, I started going across the river to the fireworks in Peoria. The Peoria fireworks had live music and grilled bratwursts — it was big-time compared to running around Fondulac Park.
Tonya and I have carried on the tradition with our girls. When the girls were little, we went to Old Navy and bought these matching gray t-shirts that had a flag emblazoned on the front. We put Hope in her stroller and went to the 4th of July parade in Concord, a town just east of San Francisco. I kept that t-shirt until it was almost see-through … something I didn’t wish to inflict on any passerby.
This past Friday, we took the girls to the fireworks show at Lake Murray. We walked down from the house to the lake with a few friends. Along one of the walking trails we set up camp, which consisted of a few chairs and a blanket. In the background we could hear a local band playing cover songs from the 1980s. Closing my eyes, I could almost smell the bratwursts grilling alongside the Illinois river.
The 4th of July reminds us of our story as Americans. It celebrates the birth of a great experiment — the experiment that mixed liberty, freedom, justice, and democracy.
Has the experiment been conducted flawlessly? The obvious answer is no. Our story contains less-than-noble chapters: slavery, segregation, the Japanese internment, political scandals, moral failures. We have people who fall through the cracks and those who help push them through.
But that’s not our entire story. The American story contains many more chapters of personal sacrifice, creativity, entrepreneurship, benevolence, and individuals who simply did the right thing.
On Independence Day, we remember and celebrate our freedoms. Freedoms that are often used in ways our founding fathers never might have imagined but for which they gave their lives. As did thousands of men and women from subsequent generations, including today’s.
For whatever reason, God has made you a part of this story. What will history have to say about the chapter you are writing?