I don't know about you, but every 4th of July I am always surprised and disappointed at, how many people, young and old, do NOT show respect to our beloved colors as Old Glory passes by, not to mention, stand when our national anthem plays. What has happened to us? Didn't their mother's teach them?
More and more each year, I think we take for granted the precious freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. Have we forgotten the courage and sacrifices of the many men and women that so willingly gave their lives so we can enjoy liberty? Are we unaware of how few rights other countries have?
I determined a long time ago as this ‘behavior' was becoming more commonplace, that I wanted to make a difference, to be part of the solution and not the problem. But where to start? Well, "There's no place like home!" Why not? We are each raising future American citizens in our homes. Don't we want them to be the best they can be? Don't we want to raise responsible, law-abiding American citizens? Do they know what it means to be a good citizen? Teach them about our brave God-fearing founding fathers and our inspired Constitution.
First, we became more diligent about standing with our hands over our hearts with one child holding our little classroom flag and leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance as part of our daily devotionals. We also studied the words to the Pledge and what the colors of the flag stood for, as well as how to take care of our flag. [This goes great with some of the scout requirements.] We played lots of great patriotic music to get us in the mood.
When our children started getting a little older we began a tradition of having a block party every 4th of July. We invited people from the ward and our neighborhood - we've had as few as 12 and as many as 60. We worked hard to put it all together, but the good feeling stuck with us long after the last person left. We spent the weeks before cleaning up the yard just right, sending out invitations, making or buying that ‘special new decoration' for our celebration, planning games, and buying fireworks for the evening show. These simple "tasks" taught our children - service, pride in the work they did, creativity as they designed our invitations and after time, our oldest daughter even took over dad's job of designing our yearly patriotic t-shirts that we wore as a family.
As for the food - we had an old-fashioned potluck. Everyone brought something to share, their own choice of meat to cook, and chairs or blankets to sit on. We figured if we ended up with 7 bags of chips then we had chips, but we usually did just fine. As a general rule, we provided an ice chest of canned drinks, a thermos of water, the paper goods, and the grill.
After everyone had eaten and visited, we cleared up the food and began the games. Sometimes I asked for help and sometimes we just did them all. This is where we shared a lot of laughter and learned to really come to love our neighbors and friends. We played all sorts of games from "Do You Love Your Neighbor?" to Charades, and one year we even had a living game of Checkers using people for the tokens. It was a hit!
Finally, the long anticipated moment would arrive - darkness! Time to pull out the glow sticks, and set up the fireworks; but first we would all gather around our flag, and together, recite the Pledge of Allegiance. At about this point many of us would have tears in our eyes and I would know people still love their country.
Oh how everyone, young and old, delighted in the fireworks. Our evenings ended on this quiet and peaceful note as we thrilled at the colors and the beautiful designs bathing the night sky; and together we thanked our Heavenly Father for all we have.
Those of us still at home feel the emptiness on the 4th of July these days as most of the children have grown. We have taken a rest from our yearly tradition. We miss the opportunity to express our patriotism and share our friendship. We have joined in again with the grandchildren, and so the tradition continues.....
Yes, WE ARE PROUD TO BE AMERICAN!
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