Giving thanks for freedom — quietly

Published 8:33 am Friday, July 9, 2010

Giving thanks for freedom — quietly

Independence Day seemed quiet this year, fewer celebrations. Scenes from our once pristine beaches show fewer visitors.

On this holiday, I went in search of July Fourth celebrants at Veterans Park on Valleydale, imagining many festive people. They were sparse, many somber.

Sidling across the grass by the lake, I came upon a lone walker, Richie Gudzan, with two mixed-breed hounds on leashes. He discussed Independence Day’s personal meaning.

“We have freedom to go jump in a lake,” he said, smiling.

Gudzan meant that literally. Both dogs were dripping water from a cooling swim. He explained more.

“My father-in-law is in the Army,” he said, “so naturally, I appreciate our servicemen, especially today. I travel internationally and can’t help but notice the differences in other cultures, their lack of the freedoms we take for granted here in America.”

Independence Day celebrates the birthday of the United States of America, the anniversary of the day on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress, July 4, 1776, a time for rejoicing. Our Patriot forefathers won freedom from Great Britain’s rule, fought and died so we can, for example, vote for government leaders, own property, speak freely, read what we choose, convene in groups, worship God as we choose.

Freedoms gained since 1776 include these: Women and minorities can now own property, receive education, vote and hold office.

Today, many Shelby County residents lose loved ones in battle in the longest war America has ever fought. Here at home, many are enslaved in debt, jobless. Our beautiful beaches, once an escape from pressures of life, are fouled. Where can we run to, and find solace, peace, hope for the future? Fireworks and parades distract for a moment, but they may simply remind some of lost soldiers.

Driving home from Veterans Park on Valleydale Road, I cruised through neighborhoods, finding cars clustered at some houses, air rich with aroma of grills heating up and home style barbeque in progress. Today, many find peace, hope and comfort surrounded by friends and family, looking into the eyes of a young child and telling the story of this great nation’s freedom, won by tough Patriots, stanch and hardy ancestors whose blood runs through our veins; and, with each sun rise, remembering who’s still in ultimate control, giving God thanks. Therein is true freedom.