Wednesday, July 4, 2007

O Say, Can You See?

I love the Fourth of July. Who doesn't? Since we moved to the area four plus years ago from the paradise of Southern Cal, we have spent every morning of the 4th at Crestmont Park with the rest of the ward (our local congregation), celebrating with a breakfast, short program, and kids' parade. It is such a great way to start off the day--it has that old small town feeling. There is something about that 4th of July that inspires us to experience part of the community, rather than just holing up with our families. Maybe for you that means going to a ball game or a fireworks show or having a slew of people over to BBQ, but I get my fix at the ward breakfast every year.
The 4th of July is more meaningful to me after having spent a few of them living abroad. I will always remember the year I spent the 4th in Tel Aviv. I was spending the summer at the BYU Jerusalem Center (one of the best summers of my life) and we had the day off of classes. Many of us decided to go into Tel Aviv to explore, see the Lion King and eat at the Hard Rock Cafe (I guess we were craving an American experience to commemorate the day), and catch the fireworks at the American Embassy. I can vividly recall swimming in the warm Mediterranean that night, watching the fireworks shoot out over the water, and hearing the patriotic songs that reminded me of home.
I also spent a 4th in Russia while I was a missionary and have no memories of that--it was just another day there for us. But my experience in Russia, as much as I fell in love with that land and the people, also made me appreciate the freedoms that I have often taken for granted (not to mention the standard of living that we enjoy). The singularity of this freedom is again hitting home as I am currently enjoying "Reading L o lita in Tehran."I can't even imagine living in a place where a book or a study group might be illegal and covert, where people have to hide their satellite dishes or are afraid to speak their minds. Our country, with all its faults, is still a place that offers "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that everyone on the planet deserves to have. And I can't hear the Star Spangled Banner without choking up. Call me cheesy if you will!
Well, my break between swimming and fireworks is about over, so I'm going to get back to our celebration. God Bless America!

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