Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this great country, this choice land cradled between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. From sea to shining sea, we are a diverse, heterogeneous group. In terms of language, race, religion, ethnicity, and tradition, the United States probably has a more motley population than any country in the world. If you ever doubt it, take a trip to the Big Apple, and you might find yourself feeling somewhat like a minority. I know I did. In fact, I snapped the above picture at Ellis Island recently because of all of the faces represented, I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me. The second picture is of the same “faces” from a different angle.
When the 4th of July rolls around, I find myself reflecting even more on our great land and also on the many Fourths that I’ve experienced in the past. I’m not going to bore everyone with a long trip down Memory Lane, but I would like to mention one of my most unforgettable July memories. It has nothing to do with food, parades, fireworks, family get-togethers, or patriotic songs.
About 20 years ago, my first husband and I arose before daybreak and left our three sleeping children in the care of my mother so that we could go to the beach for an early morning run. Mornings are always special in that they hold the fresh promise of a new day, but this July morning was even more extraordinary. It was Independence Day, and we were on the beach. We thought we were alone except for a few scattered shell seekers, and then we saw them: a Vietnamese family huddled closely together on the steps of one of the beach access walkways. Quietly staring at the ocean, there were grandparents, parents, and three young children. Why the scene hit me with such force, I don’t know. I guess it had something to do with the combination of the holiday with the sight of the family staring out to sea. I was forcibly struck with the thought America is a land for ALL PEOPLE, not just descendents of those who came over on the Mayflower.
Yesterday was a fine, somewhat low-key day, one that began with breakfast with Paul and Amanda and ended with a cookout with a few members of my husband’s family. I’ve had some pretty spectacular Fourth celebrations, including a crazy one in which Carrie and I joined festivities in Camden, Sumter, and Florence before arriving home in Myrtle Beach around midnight. I’ve seen fireworks on the Hudson River in New York, on the coast of Myrtle Beach, and on the Washington Mall with Paul, Ella, Joanna, and thousands of other celebrants, but yesterday I didn’t see a single flash of light. While that was okay, next year I plan to go wherever the fireworks are so that I can better commemorate America’s birthday with my fellow Americans.
As George W. Bush would say, “God bless America.”