Today, as we commemorate our nation’s signing of the Declaration of Independence, claiming our independence from Great Britain (ironically – a nation about to claim its own independence from the European Union), I feel deep gratitude for the privilege of being a citizen of our great United States of America.
There are many kinds of independence but the one I’ve been contemplating lately is independence of fear. When I moved to Augusta to take my current job, a friend had sent me off with the advice to live fearlessly. I did for a while and then forgot… As I was trying to recapture what it means to not be afraid (so that I may remember it for myself and pass it on to my son and hopefully inspire those around me), I found threefold inspiration this 4th of July weekend. As the proverb goes: ask and you shall receive!
A friend of mine just had brain surgery in response to cancer. Cancer inevitably brings about fear (I know it did in me back in 2008 when I had my own battle with it) but somehow, as we examine our lives through the lens of our mortality, cancer suddenly becomes our greatest teacher. This is evident in my friend’s words before her surgery: she conveyed thanks and trust in her medical team. Her words after the surgery expressed bravery and humor: “I am not in any pain, except for my head.” I wish my friend a speedy and uneventful healing journey and am inspired by her fearlessness! May we all look at the filled portion of the glass (rather than the empty one), and also remember that, with a fearless view point, any glass is refillable.
Also this weekend, I was at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, where my son and I chose to conquer the Sky-High Safari activity, a 4-story rope course. As we looked at the twin (approx. 24 mm) ropes and the steps sparsely strung across them – the first and easiest rope course, we could not help but feel intimidated. A guide noticed and stopped to check on us. For a morale boost, she crossed before us, showing us optimal foot and hand positions. As we saw her ease and grace in crossing what to us seemed an impossible task, we suddenly felt a wave of hope. We might just be able to pull this off! Trusting that our harnesses would hold us, and focusing simply on putting one foot in front of the other, we soon found ourselves on the 4th story! As we climbed back down, my son noted that he forgot to be afraid after we saw the guide crossing with such confidence. What a great reminder that was: when we are creatively alive and approach any given task with confidence, we forget to be afraid!
My third source of inspiration this weekend is our nation’s birthday. We owe our freedom to a lot of brave women and men, beginning with the committee appointed by Congress in 1776 to write the unprecedented document justifying the 13 colonies’ intent to separate from Britain. I am trying to imagine what Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, and Robert Livingston must have felt as they undertook this monumental task. Were they fearless? Or did they feel fear and forged on regardless? I am guessing it is the latter.
Our forefathers’ majestic narrative still rings true in our hearts today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I look at the portrait of the 5 authors of our Declaration of Independence and imagine them in the moment captured here. Feathers in hand, black ink fountains on the desk, a couple of blank scrolls of paper, and a big goal to meet. Were they intimidated or eager to get to work? Did they have writer’s block or did the words just pour out of their hearts?
Whatever seemingly impossible task you have ahead of you, do not let it intimidate you! Trust your inner guidance. I imagine Jefferson, Adams, Sherman, Franklin, and Livingston simply focused on each feather stroke to string words together. Words turned into sentences. Sentences became paragraphs. And the paragraphs became our Declaration of Independence.
Each great novel (or doctoral dissertation) started with a word. Each Olympic record started with a dream. Each tree started from a seed. As the Lorax would say, focus on the seed that you are planting now and before long you’ll see the fruits of your labor of (fearless) love!
Happy Independence Day and may God continue to bless the United States of America!