I love that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are ingrained in the preamble to our U.S. Declaration of Independence. The writers found them to be fundamental rights of all citizens (or at least those they considered citizens).
Earlier this week I found myself walking once again in our local Independence Day parade with my husband’s congregation on a stiflingly hot Fourth of July. I never know what to do in parades. Waving seems the most obvious course, but being an introvert it requires vast amounts of will to smile at strangers and wave. I threw candy for a few years, which made the children happy but necessitated carrying a ridiculous amount of sweets.
Recently I began taking pictures of the families and individuals lining the streets of our community. We live in a rough neighborhood. There’s a lot of poverty and not a little violence. There’s also a lot of beautiful people doing their best to pursue life, liberty, and happiness for themselves and others.
Independence Day is the best day of the year in our neighborhood from my perspective. Everyone’s out. Everyone’s celebrating. Everyone’s having yard parties and eating and drinking and setting off explosives. I saw one group roasting an entire pig in a converted freezer behind their home. Epic!
In the evening, after a day of parades and car shows and wooder ice in a carnival atmosphere, the whole neighborhood gathers at dusk at our local Rec Center for the real fireworks. People line up at ice cream trucks for a treat while families lay down their blankets and set up their chairs for the main event. The children shout as the crowd oooohs and aaaahs at the fantastic display of light and sound on a beautiful night in the neighborhood. Then we walk home with everyone, weaving through the hot cars packing the hot streets, declaring what a good day it was to celebrate together… and then we forget.
Jesus – The Way, The Truth, and The Life – gives us what the Declaration strives for but we as a nation refuse to embrace. We forget how beautiful we all are (see the pics above). How very much God loves the world (see the cross). How our joy expands when we thank God for each other (see Jesus in our neighbors). How our life only increases when we pursue life, liberty, and happiness not just for ourselves, but for all.