Over the years my childhood memories have taken on an amber hue. When I recall my days as a boy I think of the fishing trips with Granny and Grandpa; the first runs of I love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show, the rides on Grandpa’s Borden milk truck and those great china-berry trees in Granny’s yard just made for climbing. I think of hiking with my Dad in upstate New York and wandering through Cades Cove, Tennessee with the family. I think of all the good things and the blessed moments of which one’s memories should be made.
I don’t think of the Bay of Pigs, or the Cuban missile crisis. I don’t think of Nikita Khrushchev and his shoe or Lee Harvey Oswald. Korea, Vietnam, and Kent State don’t really factor into the memories of my childhood, and I suppose that is how it should be.
As one gets a bit older though, things such as the state of the world begin to weigh upon you a little more as you think of the lives your children and their children will lead after you’re gone. It is easy to get so caught up in the worry of things as they are and the imaginings of things to come that you forget to focus on the things of God and the great blessings He has bestowed upon you now.
This was brought home to me a few years back when Mary and I took a trip to Niagara Falls for our thirtieth wedding anniversary. Instead of rushing to the Falls and the accompanying crowds, Mary and I took the long way around and wandered up through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York and back through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. We avoided the busy roads and ventured through small town America. Somewhere along the way I was able to leave the worries of everyday life behind and open my eyes to a reality that I knew to be true, but had failed to fully realize.
That reality has several levels. The first of which was a rekindled appreciation for the gift of my wife and family. Thirty years, make that thirty five years now, of marriage makes for more than a few topsy-turvy moments in life; but looking back, I realize that no matter what whirled about us, my family has held firm. There might be a few loose nuts on some of the bolts, but as a whole we’ve kept it together pretty well. I am greatly blessed.
Another aspect of this reality began to dawn upon me when I realized that no city, town or country byway was without a steeple. As we traveled, the number of churches we saw was astonishing. If you listen to the news media these days you might begin to wonder if Christ has any place left to lay His head in today’s world. Well, I discovered that He does. He rests in the hearts of many an everyday American as they quietly go about their lives, making memories for their children and grandchildren to cherish.
Finally the reality of the strength of this great nation of ours was made clear to me on that trip. As we traveled from Gilbert to Punxsutawney and beyond, the Stars and Stripes were proudly displayed on homes and business and town squares from South Carolina to the northern border, and I was greatly heartened on account of it.
While we may disagree on a lot of things, it appears that most of us do love this wonderful country in which we have all been blessed to live out our lives. As hard as it was for me to admit, even to myself, I came to realize that some, perhaps many of those beautiful flags so proudly displayed on all of those homes, had probably not been placed there by folks who agree with me on all things. That being said, agree or not, we are all Americans.
As we enjoy this month with all of its fireworks, celebrations and red, white and blue, we need to be truly thankful to our God above for the nation in which we live. We may have our faults, we will have our disagreements, but no matter what “they” say, to be privileged to live in our “one nation under God” is a blessing for which we should be truly thankful.