The chemistry of fireworks
Like every other patriotic American, I look forward to the annual celebration of our nation’s birth with eager enthusiasm.
It’s always inspirational to be reminded of the blessings of being a member of the freest population on earth. This week, however, began with a moment that moved me unexpectedly.
I was in my usual place with my wife and family at our weekly church service, which began with a selection of patriotic songs from our choir and orchestra. The congregation was standing and singing along, except for an elderly lady in the pew in front of us.
She’s a regular who, in spite of her significant mobility limitations, makes her way very slowly down the aisle every Sunday with a walker that she seems to struggle with. When she reaches her seat, she remains there throughout the service.
She never stands during the service because doing so is too difficult for her. Her posture is bent and strained, and her silvery head is barely above the pew in front of her.
So, it wasn’t a surprise that she remained seated during the rendition of the music familiar to all of us. That is, until the song celebration began to be concluded with the national anthem.
When those chords rang out, she inched forward, reached for the back of the pew and slowly drew herself, with some difficulty, to her feet in honor to the country that she felt deserved her personal tribute.
She could have remained comfortably and safely seated, as everyone might expect and understand. But for her, that moment of respect to our nation deserved being on her feet, no matter the struggle of getting there.
There are countless reminders of ours being the greatest nation in the world, but she added a dimension by that simple act of selfless character.
We need that right now. In the midst of divisions that separate us as a people, it’s particularly important for us to pause for a moment and remind ourselves of all the reasons we have to celebrate our good fortune as Americans.
People from all over the world know what we have. Thousands seek to join us every day. They come from oceans away and trek halfway across the continent to get here. Many, in violation of our immigration laws, risk their lives and their freedom for a chance to get into the U.S.
There are an estimated 11 million people who have made that journey and are now among us without the benefit of citizenship. Yet they continue to come in spite of all the things we hear from politicians and the media about the imperfections of our country and the failings of our leaders.
That situation exists nowhere else on earth. No other country’s borders are overrun with people trying to get in. No other country allows millions of people to enter illegally and remain alongside citizens, or provides them with what they need to support their daily lives.
Only ours. So, as we are reminded during this special week of celebration that the American Dream is not only alive and well but stronger than ever before, we know we are indeed greatly blessed.
For me, that cue has come from the image of a fellow communicant painfully struggling to her feet in tribute to all that has brought us to where we are today — 243 years after those fateful events that launched an unimagined journey producing an outcome unequaled in all of human history.