Celebrating the 4th of July with Gratitude for the Good in Our Lives

July 1, 2024 8:57 am Published by

Holidays often serve as markers in our lives – markers of seasons (the middle of the summer), reminders of prior years (what we did for the 4th of July when we were growing up), and touchstones for reflection (what are we celebrating and why).

I love the 4th of July holiday largely because we have a legacy of wonderful family get-togethers that are a lot of fun and which evoke a large number of fond memories for me. And our family celebrations involve several traditions that I enjoy: being outside playing games, shooting fireworks, barbecuing, swimming and boating, and watching a large firework show. The Fourth is almost always a fun time.

But at its core, celebrating the 4th of July is about commemorating the birth of the United States of America as a country – the day we declared independence from Great Britain, adopted the Declaration of Independence, and affirmed our intention to be a self-governing nation. Sometimes in the midst of the summer fun, we forget this deeper meaning.

The Challenge: Imperfection

Clearly, we haven’t been a perfect nation – at our beginning, over the centuries, or now. I believe countries are, by nature, imperfect entities because they are created by and composed of imperfect people. But, over time, we have worked together to create many good things, ideas, and processes that have improved the quality of life for millions.

Two Foundational Gifts: Freedoms and Resources


As I reflect on who we are as a country, a core component of our identity centers on our numerous freedoms – especially when contrasted with the lack of freedoms so many citizens of other countries do not have.

We have the freedom to live where we want. Yes, I choose to live in Kansas, but if I want to move, I can (and have – previously living in the Chicago area, Phoenix, and Atlanta).

We have the freedom to choose our own vocation and how we want to use our time. Although figuring out what we want to do with our lives vocationally can be a challenge, it is a nice problem to have.

We have the freedom to speak our minds. Whether it is through the Internet, in personal conversations, or speaking at a public meeting, we have the freedom to share our thoughts, even if they differ from the current government authorities or from the majority culture. 

We have the freedom to gather publicly in groups. This is obviously closely linked to the freedom of speech, but differs in an important way. If the populace becomes upset with some aspect of community life, we have the right to gather by the thousands, if we want, to make our voice known.

We have the freedom to choose our religious beliefs (or whether to have any). Obviously, many of the early American settlers came to the country specifically for the desire for religious freedom — attempting to escape religious persecution. And we continue to have a pluralistic society with regards to religious beliefs and practices.


Most Americans (although not all) have an amazing number of resources available to us, many of which we take for granted. Let me list a few, which I hope will generate even more in your mind as your read:

              *shelter from the physical elements

              *clothing and shoes

              *electricity and what it runs (lights, stoves, refrigeration, air conditioning, fans)

              *access to information and ability to communicate with others (phones, computers, tv)

              *clean water, cold water, running water, hot water

              *food: fruits, vegetables, meat, all kinds of varieties, thousands of choices

              *education (formal and informal), books, public libraries

I encourage you to take some time over the holiday to reflect and be grateful for the good things in your life – and also to consider how you might share with those less fortunate than you. There is also value in setting aside some moments for discussion about America’s founding and growth, challenges and successes, and what the future might hold, not just for the nation as a whole, but for each of its citizens as well.

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Published by
July 1, 2024 8:57 am

1 Comment

  • Roberta says:

    What an excellent newsletter for such a significant holiday! Thank you for sharing insightful ideas to ponder.

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