For as long as I can remember, July 4th was a time to gather and celebrate. It didn’t matter what your political affiliations were, or what clothes you wore, or even what your views on the state of things were. All that mattered was that you were an American who was excited to celebrate with other Americans.
This no longer seems to be the case. Over the course of the last seven months (two years, really), we have seen personal preferences shoot to the forefront of our everyday lives. Where you get your news from, who you support, even where you live is now your number one identifier.
Regardless of how you feel about this, I wonder what our Independence Day would look like if we put all of that aside and celebrated our home country with the other Americans who inhabit it. What if we celebrated America while also celebrating our fellow Americans?
CELEBRATE THIS COUNTRY
This country has a ton to offer, not the least of which is the incredibly diverse landscape that stretches for thousands of miles in nearly every direction. If you have a trip planned for this holiday weekend, do yourself a favor and get out and see the area around you. It could be the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, or the Finger Lakes in New York, or Death Valley in the Southwest. Wherever you are, open your eyes and see it. Don’t just look at it, see it.
If you find yourself in the same place you’ve been visiting for years, or the place you grew up in, or the place you currently live in, learn a little more about it by exploring the places and historical sites (I guarantee they’re there) that surround it. Learn who it’s named after, or when it was settled, or what kind of developments are planned for the future. There is so much to see and learn in this massive country. Take this weekend, its birthday, to grab some of it, even if it’s just a little bit.
CELEBRATE THE PEOPLE
There are so many people in this great land of ours (325 million, to semi-exact) and I’m willing to bet that a majority of them are wonderful. Again, putting all politics and beliefs aside, at least for this weekend (please), I implore you to try to meet new people and make new friends. Presumably you’ll find yourself at a BBQ at some point, right? The likelihood of you knowing every person there is small, so get on over there and introduce yourself. Even if you come across a person you’re not too fond of, you’ll leave having had a good time.
If you’re traveling, meet the locals and get to know them a little bit. Ask them about why they live where they live. Ask them what their favorite places to visit are. Ask them where to find the best peach cobbler in town. It really doesn’t matter what you ask them, just ask them about them or the town they live in. At the very least, make small talk and trade pleasantries. None of this constant looking at your phone business this weekend.
We all have personal beliefs and ideals, but I’m positive we can all agree on one thing: time off of work. Take this time off and celebrate your time away from the desk. You’re surrounded by friends and family, a smoldering grill, freshly cooked meats, cold drinks, and (hopefully) the large, glowing light of the sun. Absorb it (sunscreen) all and enjoy the moment.
Life will come roaring back to you after the holiday weekend, but for right now take a step back, breathe, and enjoy this country and these people.
Until next time – be safe and happy fourth!