Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Vivo en el Cinco de Julio

Happy 5th of Alive, folks.
For many years now, July the Fifth has been sort of a second Thanksgiving Day to me. No, we don’t grill turkey breasts or even bob for sweet potatoes out in the back yard. It’s a personal celebration, one that I’m not sure that I’ve ever really talked to anyone about before now.

With the possible exception of being a little hung-over, most people wouldn’t regard today as being much different than any other.

But it is for me.

Twenty-Nine years ago (omigawd you can’t believe how old that makes me feel) I was a few weeks shy of my 20th birthday. I was also president of the college-age class at my church. Like any other social group, we often planned activities around holidays when people would be off work or school. The Fourth of July fell on a Sunday that year, so the added bonus of that happenstance was that most everyone was off on Monday the 5th. So we thought it might be fun to plan a little outing on that day.

I dubbed it a “Cinco de Julio Celebration.”

We planned a day hike in the local SoCal mountains; just a half-day kind of thing. Pack a lunch, hike a little, take in the scenery, hang out and relax. And since it was principally my idea, I was also the one with whom the responsibility of delivering the devotional was charged (after all, this was a church group outing).

I don’t so much remember what it was I said, but I do recall a lot about the time I spent preparing for it. A good part of the previous day, I sat on the couch in my apartment with the TV on, watching as I wrote down notes to this short, fifteen-minute, (hopefully) inspirational talk I was about to give.

It was July 4, 1976, our nation’s Bicentennial, and the networks were awash in special programming about the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Every channel it seemed was broadcasting some kind of patriotic program. I remember tears welling up in my eyes as the pride swelled within my chest. I was so thankful to be an American.

I still am.

Every year since, Cinco de Julio has served as a reminder for me; as the first day after the fireworks have faded and the bands have fallen silent, that life continues, and the real celebration should begin. A celebration of freedom; a celebration of life as a blessed people.

Despite the debacles, both social and governmental, which have stained America in our lifetime, this is still a great nation. It’s not perfect, but then again neither are we. Neither am I.

What I am is blessed — no matter how you choose to interpret the word. That’s how I feel today.

Of all the metaphysical gin joints in the world that good fortune could have walked into, she chose to walk into mine. And as each year passes I find myself more and more amazed at my fate but less convinced that I had any real hand in making it so.

Regardless of your stance on things political and/or social in the world, I hope you celebrated our nation’s birth yesterday — I mean really celebrated it — in your mind and in your heart, not in just the outward trappings of food and fireworks. I know I did. And I realized once again just how good I indeed have it today — not ten or twenty years ago — but today. It doesn’t matter how much better I ever thought my life should have been. The fact is, it’s pretty damned good right now.

There is still a lot of work to be done to make this country what it could be, but I hope you’ll join me today in celebrating it for what it is; and for what we are: a truly blessed people.

Happy Cinco de Julio, my friends.

Happy 5th of Alive.

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