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Belonging on the 4th of July

I loved this 4th of July weekend because I realize I am a part of my community. Now I know where and how to be. I used to feel like only the cool, in-the-know people knew where to be, and I was, well, neither cool or in-the-know. Excluded.

But on the 3rd of July this year I got to meet the Queens from our sister city of Guanajuato at my Rotary club, and then read a quote on hope by President Obama. Then, this morning, I got up and got dressed in red and black, like my husband, the current President of the Ashland Rowing Club (ARC).


I felt excitement as we navigated around the orange cones and barriers outlining the parade route to pick up croissants for everyone. Even though I haven’t been rowing regularly for a year, people said how nice it was to see me again. As we sipped coffee together we affixed decals that showed happy rowers to the doors of five electric SMART cars that are owned by members of the club. Then, two rowing sculls (27 feet long!) were tied to the tops of two of the SMART cars. Later, half a dozen SMART cars arrived driven by Mercedes salesmen.

We headed out to a side street to await other rowers. Some were people I’d rowed with years ago and others I’d never seen. So much movement and community buzz! I spoke with three members of the Lithia Springs Rotary Club, who were dressed as chefs or crabs to publicize their annual crab feast. By the big La Clinica mobile unit, I talked to several people I knew, one of whom was frying up bacon to feed their hungry crew. I saw men with axes and children with hard hats waiting with the Jackson County Fuel Committee. At the AMIGO float, I practiced my minimal Spanish with one of the Guanajuato contingent. And later, with the Peace Corps people, I found a long-lost friend who’d been away in the South Pacific for the last two years. A full morning indeed of the United Groups of Ashland.

When we finally pulled onto the parade route, time seemed to slow down. I was at first stunned--so many people and so much red, white and blue! Instinctively, I smiled and started waving. As I case my eyes over the crowd I connected with each one of them. Many people smiled and even more waved back. Some people gave us the thumbs up or cheered to see a long red boat on a small white car.

For half and hour, we experienced our slo-mo ride, weaving ourselves into the holiday in our own unique way. We are rowers who glide along Emigrant Lake and appreciate the osprey and eagles, and the baby llama who lives down the arm of the lake. We are community members, of all shapes and sizes, who come together to keep moving and experience fitness in nature. We are human beings, who come, with all our faults and foibles, our challenges, successes and excesses, and allow ourselves to be seen.

I imagine that’s how death will be. In the last moments, in the flashing of our lives before us will be a parade of everyone we’ve ever known. And we’ll wave and smile and some will smile and wave back.

As I finished off the evening watching the fireworks, serenaded by 200 band leaders from around the U.S. and other countries, I continued to smile inside and out. How grateful I am for the opportunity to both give and receive in my community. In addition to feeling a fullness in my heart when the national anthem was played, I felt a sense of belonging.
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