Like many of you, I’ll celebrate Independence Day this week. When I think about America I value the foresight of those who preserved our national parks. I never tire of exploring the natural beauty of the western U.S. From the rain forests of Olympic to the rock formations of Canyonlands, each park preserves treasured natural landmarks for future generations.
My reflections on America connect me to the pioneers who settled it. When I look at these wagons I imagine the creak of the wheels as they slowly rolled through the tall prairie grass. I think about the brave families ready to tackle anything life threw at them. Once they found a place they liked, the pioneers spent weeks chopping wood for the construction of their new home, usually a rustic one room cabin.
Can you imagine a life working from sunrise to sunset to survive? This settler had to walk to a stream to get water. Somehow the land doesn’t look quite hospitable to farming. Maybe he had mining for gold on his mind.
When I think about America I remember growing up in Ohio. I picture farmers plowing the land and producing a great harvest. I think of county fairs that celebrate the biggest pumpkins, best jars of jam, and beautiful patchwork quilts.
As a student in Ohio I reaped the benefits of a good public education. I’m thankful for teachers who taught me how to read and write. I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend The Ohio State University.
My feelings of thankfulness take me to my present home in Orlando. I picture the busy city streets. I see the millions of ordinary people who do follow the traffic laws and I am amazed when I realize most Americans are just out there trying to do their best. I’m thankful for the workers who designed and built the roads we all drive on.
America began when a little group of Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic in search of freedom to worship God. I marvel that the same freedom is available to me today. I have the freedom to travel where I want. I have choices about what I want to buy, eat, and wear. I appreciate the freedom to read what I want, and think what I want. As a child born in the 1950’s I have never experienced what it is like to live in a combat zone. Unlike many countries, no wars have been fought in my homeland during my lifetime. I have never known what it might be like to go hungry.
When I think of Independence Day, I picture neighbors getting together for backyard barbecues and kids running three-legged races in the park. I imagine bands playing patriotic music while I wipe the watermelon juice off my chin. When night falls I ooh and ah at spectacular fireworks.
All of this is America to me. Happy Birthday America.