Freedom To Be Myself

An elderly man walked past me. He wore a red, white, and blue button-up shirt, resembling the American flag.

“Nice shirt!” I said. “You’re ready to celebrate the Fourth of July!”

 That’s not the first time I’ve complimented a senior citizen on his appearance. Living near a retirement community, I’ve seen the freedom that comes with age.

Men grow a white ponytail. Women stop dying their roots. Fingernail polish gets redder. Their clothes have more color, more bling.

I envy them.

These retirees aren’t eccentric. They’re finally old enough (if I may stereotype) to not worry about other people’s opinions. They own the freedom to be themselves.

We talk about individualism in America, but magazines and television shows spend millions of dollars, telling me what to wear and how to decorate my home.

Does the Marketing Industry Define Me?

Peer pressure first surfaced when I was nine years old. If I wanted to be “cool” like my female classmates, I had to own white Go-Go Boots.

Even now, the fashion industry dictates the length of my skirt. Every year styles change so I’m always at their mercy. Do I tuck in my shirt? Is my blazer supposed to be shorter or longer than my blouse? Am I wearing Stiletto or wedge high heels?

Our first “cool” home had yellow shag carpet and olive green kitchen appliances. Six years later, my kitchen had country blue wallpaper with geese. We moved often, so each time I decorated according to the trend.

However, I’ve lived in this house thirteen years. At some point, without my knowledge, someone decided the valances on my window are passé.

Excuse me, I like valances.

And I want the freedom to be me.

So here’s my secret for those, regardless of age, who fret about fashion and home décor.

When my nose is in the Bible, my eyes on Christ, I’m less self-conscious or insecure.

My focus shifts from the valances to the people in my life.

I’d rather phone a friend and listen to her heart than hear someone tell me I NEED the latest gadget.

 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Col 3:2)

So this Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving for that matter, I might wear a red, white, and blue button-up shirt, resembling the American flag.

I just have one question.

Should I tuck in my shirt?

Remember, and Carry On

DSCN2410A small crowd gathered on the cemetery’s green lawn,

Surrounded by red, white, and blue U.S. flags that waved valiantly from each Military Veteran’s grave.

We gathered to pay respect.

Mourn those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, casualties of war I’d never met.

A twenty-one gun salute blasted the silence, deafened our ears,

And was followed by the somber notes of a Bugler playing Taps.

Misty-eyed, we watched as the seven-year-old son of a deceased soldier helped his mother place a wreath on the War Memorial, then posed in front of the cold, black granite where his father’s name was engraved…

Along side the names of other people who had lived in our town, died in battle.

The crowd sighed while white doves were released and flew like angels heavenward into a grey sky

Where rain clouds shed cool tears on the bereaved shoulders of Gold Star families. www.goldstarfamilyregistry.com‎‎

A guest speaker shared words from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” 

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Ceremony over, I walked shy-footed between the graves of Military Veterans.

Row after row…

Headstones lined up  like platoons awaiting inspection

Rank, name, military branch, and years on Earth now etched on flat, stone tablets instead of metal dog tags.

Life summarized in epitaphs, religious faith professed in symbols.

I touched my red Poppy.

In remembrance of those who died for our nation in the name of freedom.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

I touched my Cross necklace.

In remembrance of Christ who died to set men free from the power and penalty of sin.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

 In remembrance…I was touched. 

Persuaded to love and serve others for the greater good.

Encouraged by the still voices of those who’ve gone before me whispering in the morning breeze,

“Carry on.”