Every American knows that the Fourth of July is Independence Day. If we’re honest though, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Sweet, I get a day off work.” We plan our social calendar with pool parties, barbecued burgers and homemade ice cream.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a vacation day and spending time with friends. There is something a little wrong with forgetting to celebrate our freedom. Just like other aspects of our grossly obese culture, we have become freedom-fat. We devour it and expect more. It is largely taken for granted.

I get letters from people around the world and in one from a pastor in Uganda recently, I was reminded of our freedom to expect food and health care. In his country, people are starving by the thousands. Poverty is the norm. Many are also dropping dead from an AIDS epidemic, leaving desperate orphans to fend for themselves.

Listening to a pastor from Lebanon a few weeks ago, I was reminded of another freedom we sometimes forget about; the freedom to live without grave danger and constant fear. In his country, buildings are leveled and family members frequently don’t live to come back home because of the ever-present violence.

While I think it’s nice to mount a flag and listen to some patriotic songs under the fireworks, I’d like to suggest that you consider celebrating your freedom on the Fourth by pondering and “paying it forward.” Here are a few suggestions:

• Take a minute to reflect on the value and abundance of specific freedoms in your life. Encourage your children to do the same.

• Show gratitude to anyone who has served in the military — buy them a burger or beer, write a note or just say thanks.

• Offer a little prayer of appreciation to God, because that’s a huge freedom many people don’t have.

• Remember the millions of people who aren’t enjoying a frosty beverage (because their water source is contaminated) or a roasted hot dog (because they have no means to buy food). Pray for God to provide for their needs on this day and bring them hope.

• Make a plan to “pay your freedom forward” and keep it as a family tradition on July 4th. Choose a reputable organization that supports those who are suffering and donate in the name of freedom.

What could be more liberating than showing gratitude and lifting someone else’s burden a tiny bit? You are free to ignore or embrace my suggestions; either way, I wish you a fun and blessing-filled holiday.

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Markins can be reached at Diane@DianeMarkins.com. See more of her writing at www.DianeMarkins.com or connect on Facebook/WomeninHighDef.com.

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