Our children are still quite young (7,5,3 and 1), but for them the Fourth of July is already synonymous with fireworks, flashy parades, and fabulous summer food (s’mores!). This year, I have modest hopes of instilling in them a nascent appreciation of what the Fourth of July really means for our country, as well as some of the principles that it represents. I bought a few vintage books at a used book fair to read to them this week, including The Story of the Declaration of Independence by Norman Richards, The First Book of the American Revolution by Richard B. Morris, and Uncle George Washington and Harriot’s Guitar by Miriam Anne Bourne. So far, we have read The Story of the Declaration of Independence.
I was impressed by the conversation that arose between my children and me when I described the Declaration’s assertion that “All men are created equal.” As it turned out, this was a confusing idea for my 5 and 7 year old.
“Mom, does that mean that all people are the same”
No, I replied. We know that all people are not the same. We would not want all people to be the same. All people are different, and that is good.“So, does that mean that all people get the same stuff?”
No, I replied. We know that not all people have the same things, we don’t all receive the same things, and not all people get to do the same things.
“MOM, this is confusing, can you please explain this in another way?”
Again, I was impressed by the confusion and consternation that this foundation statement had caused, an understanding I certainly take for granted.
I explained that the statement “all men are created equal” means that all human beings are created by God and because of this, our lives are all important. Whether we are big or small, old or young, rich or poor, no matter our talents, no matter what we look like, no person is more important than another.
It occurs to me that the practical implications of this assertion are things that I work on everyday with my children: we treat everyone with respect, everyone is important and deserves to be treated fairly, we are kind to everyone no matter what they look like. But I also realized that these concepts are easily misunderstood, and misunderstanding can breed cynicism, indifference and even disbelief later in life. Our country is founded on beautiful Christian principles that are tied to the basic tenants of our faith. We owe it to our children and to our country to teach these ideals and pass them on.
Have a happy Fourth of July week. May God bless America.