Celebration of freedom, people always valuable
By LIZ THOMPSON
July 26, 2016
This month, we celebrated the independence of our country, the day we became a sovereign nation. After 240 years, you’d think we’d be tired of celebrating. Yet every year, fireworks, picnics, family gatherings and all kinds of events throughout our country mark the date.
When I was a city reporter, some 15 years ago, I gravitated to the positive stories of people who overcame obstacles or were helping others do the same. I loved stories about people who spent hours planning Fourth of July celebrations and those who lined streets to see the fruits of their labors.
I met inventors, entrepreneurs, teachers, physicians, firefighters, police officers, students, artists, musicians, mentors, parents, those remembering loved ones, council members, city workers and business people whose stories filled page after page of the local paper.
I loved every minute and always learned something new. I even had a lesson in shuffleboard and an offer to learn chess from a man who volunteered in the schools teaching children this game of strategy.
Of course, news is always a mix, and I had to do a little bit of everything.
Even after 9/11, when this country was turned upside down, positive stories were plentiful.
Children were placing flags up and down their streets, and churches were full of those praying for the families who lost people in the terror attacks.
We had new respect and understanding of the risks the safety forces endure, especially since we weren’t sure what would happen next, or if anything would happen. To that end, many were praying for our safety and for our country in a time of crisis.
Those who lived through the Depression and World War II and were still alive to tell about it likened the reactions in our country to those times when people pulled together to survive and support one another.
We didn’t have to plant victory gardens or use ration books to meet our needs after 9/11, but we were in as much shock as people were after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We didn’t know how far things would go or what our margin of safety was.
In spite of those things, we are a resilient people.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get into a celebratory mood when we see what’s going on in our country.
Today, we have news at our fingertips on TV, computers and smartphones, newspapers and, yes, even the radio — which was what our nation had during WWII for immediate news.
Sometimes I want to shut it all off. It’s almost too much saturation, and I struggle to find the good news that’s sent to the shadows.
So much news is sensationalized that I find myself sorting through those stories looking for the people who are making a positive difference — the youth who are learning and want to make a difference in this country. I know they’re out there, but we don’t hear enough about them.
I like to read and hear about everyday people doing everyday jobs to keep our lives humming.
What would we do without the people who physically built America and those who maintain and protect it today?
Of course, it’s not the celebrations that make us free, and even if we don’t watch parades or eat from picnic baskets, what’s important is that what makes our country great lies within each of us.
We have the freedom to vote and we can do it with a clear conscience. Freedom means we uphold the laws of our land and respect the people who protect us from harm.
Freedom does not mean we can do whatever we please, no matter the consequences.
I hope we never stop celebrating. I hope these traditions won’t die and that each new generation will realize the sacrifices their ancestors made, and still are making, to keep us free. I hope our youth will join in the effort to keep America free.
Irveline Evans of Upper Arlington is one person I met as a reporter. She and her mother survived a Japanese war camp. She said, “I am always moved to tears when I hear the American national anthem, and I am only recently a Yank!”
Our nation is not perfect, but I hope each of us will continue to strive to keep it united.