As a kid, I spent July 4th mostly in one of two places – at our home in Santa Ana, California, or, more often, on my Uncle Jim’s farm in Winfield, Kansas.
My brother Mark and I loved the farm on the Fourth and while we figured out how to have fun if we were in California, it was Winfield that we came to love on this most American annual celebration.
OK, it’s true. We mostly preferred Kansas because you literally got more bang for your buck. Fireworks were way cheaper and, man, could you get big stuff that really blew up. When you’re 9 or 11 or 13 years old, well, does it get any better?
The older cousins would teach us which ones made the most noise and which ones would drive Aunt Joan to tell us to be even more careful. I always got a kick out of walking out into the yard in front of the Conrod home the next morning and looking at the debris we needed to clean up. Simple. Fun. Family.
It was always hot. There was A/C for all the cousins crashing in sleeping bags in the basement. But it didn’t matter. We were all exhausted from eating, shooting at whatever cousin Joe thought was the most fun or catching fireflies for goodness-only-knows what reason. I was blessed to have a mother who had nine siblings and when the family came together it was, well, it was raucous.
I remember that the uncles would gather to play cards. I loved just sitting there watching, trying to figure out why my dad played the card he did and see the strategy and luck come together. I remember too, the banter, the joking, the stories they would tell each other. Simple. Fun. Family.
Everything of course was in red, white and blue. Flags. Bunting. Paper plates. All of it. One cousin had memorized the Gettysburg Address and everyone would gather to hear him recite it. A couple of young cousins had put together a short play about America and we were all going to watch them perform that too. Simple. Fun. Family.
Frankly, each day around the Fourth at the farm was a three-ring circus. And we grew. By the time I was 16, I was in charge of making sure the younger cousins were having fun and were safe. I’d drive downtown to get the raft inflated. I’d be given the mission to make sure that there was enough water for everyone and that the coolers were iced down and that everyone got to eat. We went from kids to young adults on that farm and it made each of us who we are today.
When it was over, we’d pile back into the family station wagon and make the two-day trip back to Southern California. Mark and I would usually sleep the whole way because why would you rest when you’re at the farm?
As I look back now, I can see what my parents were actually doing by driving the three kids to Kansas. It wasn’t to teach us pyrotechnic safety. It wasn’t to teach us that an ace-high flush is a good thing (although I did learn that it is!). No, they used the Fourth of July break to teach us about family, about responsibility and about America.
Our Founders created a Republic where we can worship and gather and celebrate our freedoms.
Everyone should be so blessed to live in a nation like ours. Our Founders created a Republic where we can worship and gather and celebrate our freedoms. I pray each of you will gather on this Fourth and enjoy the God-given rights that He provides through his grace and the glory that is our country where we can join with family to thank Him and those who work to keep us safe and protected on this special day.
In the midst of a heated campaign for Senate, Abraham Lincoln once implored his audience to "think nothing of me – take no thought for the political fate of any man whomsoever – but come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence." The better we as a nation can emulate and embody those truths, enshrined forever on July 4, 1776, the more prosperous, free and fundamentally good we will be.
So in between the parades down Main Street, the burger-flipping and fireworks, take some time to think about how we each can better live out the sacred principles of our founding and champion them each and every day. Consider how we might honor those who came before us, who sacrificed greatly to make this country what it is today and to give their children and grandchildren a better future – I know I will.
God bless you and your families on this special day, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.