Early Fireworks

Michael Parkyn, a parishioner in my Concord days, posted this fine reflection on FaceBook back in 2009.
  It's definitely worth another read...

Early Fireworks

In the California desert’s evening heat, I drive past a runner who heaves under the weight of a bulky tan vest. He is a Marine, and he seems totally oblivious to the fireworks above him or the celebrations in the nearby neighborhoods. His feet pound the pavement where it meets the farm fields. Dust rises, and the miles go by.

Across the country, a mother arranges for her son’s funeral. Her precious young man died a week ago at a friend’s house. Bearing her own solitary load, she will, for now, struggle to survive each new day. If she is like the legions of others who suffer loss right now, she harbors hope that her awful, waking dream will one day have meaning.

A mother mourns, a Marine trains, and a city celebrates.

What do they celebrate? It is Friday, July 3rd. Independence Day is still one day away, but the festival seems to have begun early. These people probably celebrate family, summer, and extra days off. Not bad reasons for a party, but are they the right reasons?

“Something is worth” my father once said, “what you are willing to pay for it.” A child of the Great Depression, Dad was not the first to coin this phrase, but he certainly understood it. That’s the beauty of transactions – the purchase quantifies the value of our possessions. Just look at the youngster who brings a first car home to wash and display. In the transactions of loss, we also appreciate the value of our treasure. Witness the prayerful bargaining of a parent for a lost child, or the solitary toil of a Marine for the men of his company.

When our country was new, John Adams celebrated its birth in a letter to his wife Abigail. Even as he described the many ways of marking the occasion, he noted the price. “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure,” wrote Adams, “that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.”

The Marine knows the value of his friends. The mother knows the value of her loss. In their knowledge, each may be more fortunate than the citizens of this city who celebrate something they do not understand. As the day of July Fourth gives way to evening fireworks from one end of the United States to the other, it is my hope that every one of my friends and family will know what we can lose, celebrate the value of what we have, and with everything we have, continue to maintain the Declaration. Happy Independence Day, everybody.




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