Bargell: What’s a patriot?
There’s really nowhere better to be on the Fourth of July than right here in Summit County. And, at least in my view, there’s nowhere better to be in the world right now than here in the good ol’ U.S.A. Sure we have our issues, and I have to catch myself often when I start to complain. But, at the end of the day – when I tuck the girls safely in their beds – I want to remember to be thankful that their worst fears for the evening might be a bad dream. And, I say a silent prayer for all the children around the world who begin and end each day living in a nightmare.
Yesterday evening our family celebrated a birthday milestone for a great friend and surrogate grandfather. I won’t mention the actual birthday, but suffice to say he’s been around the globe a few times. Our conversation touched on Fourth of July plans – all the exciting happenings around the county. I mentioned that I have been giving some thought to how we teach our kids patriotism. How do we convey to them the sacrifices that have been made so that they can enjoy riding down Frisco Main Street on Sunday?
Our inquisitive 9-year-old, ever eavesdropping, asked innocently enough: “Mommy, what’s a patriot?” Shortly after the ground stopped shaking – which I am certain was my Dad turning over in his grave – I realized as a parent I have not done a very good job of explaining that what we enjoy in the United States comes at a great price.
When we asked the birthday boy, an Air Force grad, how do we teach our kids patriotism – he confessed he was not sure, but asked rightly “how do we teach anything?” It got me thinking that I need to work on my teaching in this regard. We work often at teaching the kids acceptance for those who are different, to be kind even when it’s difficult and the ever important lesson of respecting adults – primarily mom and dad (although we’re still working on that one). We often focus on our family’s roots in Scotland, Ireland and Sweden. We have done little, however, to explain the importance of the girls’ American heritage.
How do we teach? Foremost by example. I think we all should pause when we are tempted to put down our country. I don’t think it should be in vogue to dismiss the importance of teaching the meaning behind our Pledge, the national anthem or the Constitution. During our brief conversation, I asked our daughter if she remembers what she does when she says the Pledge of Allegiance. Sure enough, she put her hand over her heart. But when asked why – she really had no reason, except the fact her teachers had told her to. I swear the ground trembled again – just a bit.
I put my hand over my heart and felt it beat. I asked her if she felt the beating of her own heart too. Concentrating, she nodded yes. It’s important I told her, because there are so many Americans – patriots all – whose hearts no longer beat because they sacrificed their lives for us.
Today, when we go to our sporting event and they begin with the Pledge or the national anthem, I will place my hand over my heart – and offer up a silent prayer for all those who have given so much for me and my family. And, we’ll keep working toward living an example of respect for this great country.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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