Parades on the 4th of July remind me that some big men still like big engines and big noises, plenty of little boys still like fire trucks, and teenage cheerleading squads still support their athletes. Rural Americans still love their John Deeres and chainsaws, and old women still raise their arms and giggle like school girls when water sprinkles down on them from fire hoses. Little kids still love to twirl, the Shriners still have the best candy, and there’s something inspiring about the clip clop of horses’ hooves on pavement. They remind me that we still need to join the Chamber of Commerce, enter our red canoe in next year’s parade, and write it off as a business expense.

Parades also remind me of the ideas, habits, and extra pounds I’d like to declare independence from because they haven’t served me well. They remind me that there are a few things I still need to remember and many things I still need to forget. They remind me that there are a lot of people who aren’t a bit like me—and that’s a good thing—and there’s still a lot I don’t know.

Most of all, parades remind me that today is really a celebration of interdependence—on people who grow our food, put roofs over our heads, put out our fires, fix our broken dryers, fill our prescriptions, clean our hotel rooms, pick our cherries, give us loans, teach us to dance, and take us up in balloons. They remind me that someone somewhere on another part of the planet is doing or creating something that will soon impact and maybe even benefit me.

I’m only a tiny speck of paint in the grand, colorful, sometimes beautiful—often ugly—painting of life. I don’t have the capacity to stand back and admire the view from afar, but I do have the freedom to acknowledge that every colorful speck matters, and I’m just one of them.

July 4, 2019