This is the time of the year when we wax poetic celebrating our love of country. Familiar songs leap from our lips because we know them by heart. Tangible expressions of our national pride are exploded in the sky. But not all fireworks are limited to displays after dark. The fire over which we grill hamburgers and hotdogs is also a ritual we gladly embrace.
My two grandfathers helped me appreciate how blessed we are to live in America. Both sailed into New York harbor about the same time. One was from Greece and one was from Norway. The sight of the Statue of Liberty left a lump in each of their throats. Neither could ever get over how blessed they were to be called “nephews” of Uncle Sam.
Last week as I contemplated my grandfathers’ first impressions of what they saw arriving in America, I scratched the following in my journal.
“There’s a statue in a harbor
and her name is Liberty.
She stands tall for all the things that we hold dear.
A government of people
who (by rule of law) decide
what’s permitted, what is not and what to fear.
And she symbolizes freedom
in a world that’s torn by terror.
She stands up for peace enlightening the world
for the torch within her right hand
dispels darkness and helps guide
those who pledge allegiance to our flag unfurled.
She stands tall and (though she’s silent),
she invites the poor and tired
to breathe new air and dream of being free.
Like the cross, she stands triumphant
as a picture of new life
purchased by the blood that bought our liberty.”
For people who share my Christian faith, the cross on which my Savior died does convey a similar message to that of the Statue of Liberty. It calls to mind the sacrifice that opened the door to a new way of life and new opportunities for embracing an unblemished future.
As a Christian and as an American I a free to pursue my God-given dreams. I love to spell American this way: Amer-I-CAN.
Yes, the theme of liberty is the focus of my thoughts as I write this column. It’s the key to the lyrics Francis Scott Key used to unlock our gratitude for Old Glory. It’s the essence of Independence Day.
Liberty has factored into my life since I was a kid. I went to Liberty Elementary School. In addition to steel pennies and buffalo nickels, I collected Liberty dimes as a boy. The Liberty Theater was where I made my debut in stand-up comedy. (It was a short-lived career).
But those experiences of my youth pale in significance to the Liberty our immigrant parents and grandparents celebrated as they sailed beneath the outstretched torch of the Lady in New York harbor. The sight of that celebrated landmark triggered tears of gratitude and joy for many more than my grandfathers.
That lovely lady, and what she stood for, stimulated a similar response in all those who dreamed of the land of the free and the home of the brave. As they looked up into Liberty’s countenance, they knew they were home. A home where courage is born and heroes are nurtured. It’s a home where opportunity is given the run of the house.
And we, too, are grateful for this nation we call home. In light of that, let’s not limit our expression of gratitude for America to one day a year. Let’s regularly pause to check our patriotic pulse and reflect on the blessings we too-often take for granted as Mother Liberty’s offspring.
Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the full-time chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island. He is the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter and contributes original poetry each Blue Friday to KOMO news radio.