GAIL WHITE Standing united, America's blessings will flow
I will celebrate freedom this Fourth of July surrounded by family and friends.
In the morning, we will stroll into town and watch the parade. At noon we will have a cookout and eat to our hearts' content. An afternoon of swimming will be followed by more eating. At dusk, we will sit on the grassy lawn at the park and watch the fireworks.
It will be a Fourth of July like many others I have celebrated. Yet, in one way, it will be different. I will appreciate it more.
As the color guard passes in the parade, followed by all the great fighters of our freedom, I will lay my hand on my heart with a renewed sense of respect and admiration.
Before the burgers and potato salad are passed at dinner, I will pause and give heartfelt thanks for the abundance of food.
As the children swim, we will laugh at their funny antics and guess at what each one will grow up to become. We know they are free to choose any path.
When the day fades into dusk and we sit on a blanket in the park, tears will fill my eyes when "I'm Proud To Be An American" serenades the fireworks display.
The events of the past year have brought every American to a deeper appreciation of the freedoms we enjoy.
From the tragedies we endured in September to the world that is in such great turmoil today, our senses have been heightened to the precious ring of freedom.
Being born and reared in the greatest nation on earth is a privilege that is difficult to completely comprehend unless you have traveled outside our borders.
We see glimpses of the hardships and oppression of other nations in the newspaper and on television. Yet, we are removed from the horrors and personal struggles.
I had the privilege of meeting a dear woman from India this past year. Raswanti Chavan stands a little over 4 feet tall, but her spirit is a giant.
Raswanti's father died when she was very young. She was reared in an orphanage. Raswanti grew up and became a nurse in India.
"I am a very poor woman," Raswanti writes in a letter to me after she returned to India. "In my nursing profession, I used to beg, borrow and steal but I never allowed my patient to die."
Now, Raswanti has reached an age where India's law has forced her to retire.
"After my retirement I was nervous," Raswanti writes. "But somebody was supporting me."
That "somebody" was a group of Americans.
"You Americans are so generous, so kind, so helping and so loving, so caring," she says. "I have no words to express my feelings. You are so fortunate to be born in America. America is blessed."
The events of the past year have helped us to recognize those blessings.
We have pushed aside our differences and stood united -- a new generation of patriotism was born.
A reprimanding reminder
But Raswanti adds a note of reprimand for Americans. "You people take for granted your blessings. You waste so much food," she says in citing an example.
We often leave more on our plate in one meal than Raswanti will eat in a whole day in India.
I am reminded of the old Bible story about Moses and the Israelites.
A Bible scholar once told me that the journey from Egypt to the promised land was an 11-day trip on foot.
Because of their grumbling and unfaithfulness, the Israelites wandered the wilderness for 40 years.
The parting of the Red Sea did not stop their complaining. Manna falling from the sky did not reinforce their faith. Water flowing from a rock did not quench their selfish desires.
They took their blessings and squandered them.
America has been as blessed as those Israelites. Wealth, success and power have been bestowed upon us.
Grumbling and unfaithfulness will lead us to the wilderness.
Standing united and faithful, the blessings will continue to flow.