Independence Day, The 4thof July, has always been my favorite holiday! Even when, and especially when I was a child. I always looked forward to that holiday as much or more than I did my birthday or Christmas. It is a day, even after experiencing 79 of them, that I still anticipate with expectation.
For one reason, Independence Day is in the summer, my favorite season of the year. I have always loved the summer because it is the season I can be outside almost every day. I still love being outside in summer, though the hot summertime here in Colorado’s Grand Valley usually sends me scurrying back inside much sooner than when I was young. In Fort Scott, Kansas, my birthplace and home for the first 20 years of my life, it is not unuaual for temperatures to remain over 100º F for most of the months of July and August. During July in 1954, we had almost a week of temperatures over 120º F!
Soon after school was out in May each year, an army cot came out of storage and was set up in the back yard, under the shady Elm trees. This became my resting place during the hot mid-day, where I could read comic books or peruse the different fireworks catalogs that arrived in our mailbox at about that time. When the fireworks catalogs came, they took precedence over all of my downtime activities until fireworks were ordered and I waited expectantly for them to arrive, usually in mid-June. After that I was allowed to shoot off firecrackers (limited by Mom’s tolerance for the noise) until the 4thof July was over. Of course, all the night displays were saved and shot-off during the annual family celebration the night of the 4th.
I was probably about 9 or 10 when I was first allowed to order and shoot my own fireworks. Most of the firecrackers I ordered we called Chinese Firecrackers. They were about an inch or so long and a quarter-inch in diameter. Their rolled-paper fuses came wrapped together with string so that 30-40 of them were fastened together to form a flat package about 2 ½ inches wide by 4 or 5 inches long. If you were to light the fuses that protruded from the package at one end all 30-40 firecrackers were ignited incrementally and then exploded one-after-another very quickly. Of course this way of exploding firecrackers was much too quick for me and a big waste of both the noise and fun. I preferred to fire each firecracker individually, spreading the time out over as much of the day as I wanted.
About that time, my brother, Jim, built me a little toy cannon out of some scrap 2” by 6” wood with a slanted length of 1” galvanized pipe for the barrel. Using this “cannon” I shot off hundreds of Chinese Firecrackers every summer for the next 5-6 years. Hmmm… I wonder what ever happened to my old fireworks cannon?
Shooting fireworks was only a part of our July 4thcelebration, though. Each year my parents would plan a get-together with our friends, the Holy’s and we’d have a big picnic with fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and, of course, home-made ice cream and cake! The venue of our picnic changed from year-to-year but often involved other activities such as swimming in an ice-cold Ozarks stream and fishing for Dad and Mr. Holy. Mom and Mrs. Holy sat streamside in lawn chairs watching and visiting most of the day. Or perhaps we’d go one year to Farmington Lake and take a boat out on the lake to fish or just have fun. The Holy’s were my favorite family friends, and spending July 4thwith them was a tradition I loved!
You probably had a favorite family tradition you also enjoyed as a child. Perhaps, you have similar traditions now for the holiday that commemorates our great country’s declaration of independence from the rule of the English. It’s a wonderful day to thank God for our “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave” as Francis Scott Key wrote in his famed poem, The Star Spangled Banner, during the War of 1812. We love our country and we all pray that “under God” it will remain “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Independence. Freedom. Liberty. Justice for all. Today we celebrate all of these terms that we use to describe our lives here in the United States of America. But not everyone enjoys all of these privileges, even here in the USA. Many find themselves in bondage. For them there is no Freedom or Liberty. They are under the control of others and are told what they must do and when. For others, many of them people of color, cannot obtain justice, because of their heritage or for economic reasons. Children are stolen away from their parents to become slaves to others. Other people are deprived of their homes and live on the streets and under bridges in even the smallest towns of our country. How can we celebrate when so many of our fellow countrymen, countrywomen, and children are deprived of these benefits others of us take for granted?
Would you please join me in a prayer for all of those who call the United States their home? Especially those who are being deprived of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”:
Dear Father in Heaven, please forgive us for taking our Freedom and Independence for granted. Help us this day to constantly seek Your will here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Help us to learn daily to love and appreciate all of the people who live in the U.S. and to work tirelessly as a nation until all of them can enjoy ALL the privileges of living here.
Thank You for all of the benefits we receive just for being citizens of this great country. Thank You for the resources You have provided our family, and help us to be willing to share with others who suffering from lack or other reasons beyond their control.
Father, please provide for all of those who are less fortunate than we and those who do not have all of the freedoms we enjoy today. May our Country, it’s leaders, and all of it’s citizens work together in the coming days, to assure that our freedom is never lost by our neglect. Without Your help, dear Father, we are lost as a nation, and may never see the promise of “justice for all”. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.