I hope that everyone enjoyed their 4th of July. It my second favorite holiday. I love summer time already and the 4th of July is right in the middle of summer. I also enjoy loud and sparkly things, fireworks are both of those combined. In Nebraska fireworks are only legal around Independence day. The rest of the year they can not be legally sold or used.
On Wednesday night, July 2nd, some friends and I decided to set off some fire works after our weekly bible study. Before I went over to where we meet, I decided to try and get some fireworks to contribute to the fun. My church is doing a fireworks stand fundraiser to help kids get to summer camps. My little brother, who is now taller then me, also is involved with a fireworks stand fundraiser this summer for his boyscout troop. My brother’s stand is 35 minutes away, my church firework stand is 5 minutes away. They are both great causes but needless to say, I went to the one that was only 5 minutes away.
So I got to the fireworks stand and it turns out, fireworks can only be sold on July 3rd and 4th within city limits. When did that happen!!!! Well I couldn’t show up empty handed that night. So being the reasonable person that I am, I went to another town that is only about 10 minutes from my house and got some fireworks there. The crisis was averted, and we had a great time. The weather was amazing and the skies were clear. I was introduced to tank wars, which is super fun, and got to spend time with good friends.
Early this morning I went breakfast with my mom, and then headed out to a nearby town to meet some friends. The town I went to was only about 30 minutes from my house and is the 4th of July capital of Nebraska. It was an amazing time seeing everyone and catching up. That is why the 4th is one of my favorite holidays. I love the community aspect of this holiday. Yeah, I like the loud and colorful fireworks, but mostly I enjoy spending time with friends and family.
Unlike many of the other major holidays, this one is not just focused on spending time with family, but friends and others are included too. Even those who may not have a family to spend Thanksgiving with or Christmas, will always be able to find someone to spend the 4th of July with, and it will not be awkward.
In my recent adventures to South East Asia, I participated in a cultural exchange. It consisted of three American college students, and about twenty Asian high school and college students. One of the sessions that I participated in was focused on holidays. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that many of our holidays are actually very similar. Most places have either an independence day or a national day. There are also religious holidays that are observed, and then some random holidays that nobody really celebrates but they get the day off of school and work. That’s always a good thing.
How we celebrate our holidays are different but the core of the holiday is really not. That got me thinking about what other things are similar cross-culturally. There are quite a few things. When you take a look at the basics of how people live and what they want in life, you find that were not all that different. Connection is important to everyone. No one wants to be alone. Certain people might like to have more time to themselves, but no one wants to be truly alone all the time. Think about what it would be like if you were the last person on the planet? Everyone else was gone and it was just you. How awful would that be? Even the most incredible of introverts wouldn’t like that.
Have you ever seen the movie Cast Away? If you haven’t here is a quick recap of what happens. A man is on a plane, it crashes. He is the only one who survives and is stranded on an island by himself. He does manage to find a volleyball. He makes a hand print on it and gives it a name. This volleyball becomes his best friend. He talks to it, asks it questions, and does all sorts of crazy stuff.
The man in this movie, who is played by Tom Hanks, seeks connection. The only thing that he has access to is a volleyball, so he makes a connection with that. Have you ever wondered why he didn’t try to emulate other things, yes, he built shelter, and savaged for food, but most importantly he sought connection. That is a theme in our lives that does not have borders. It is not defined by political or invisible lines.
Connection and community is so important that God is even in community. He is in community with himself.He is one God with three parts. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In the first book of the Bible it is written “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” ” He didn’t say “let me” He said ” let us” implying that he is not alone. Seeking community is a biological want that God has put in everyone.God also wants to be in community with us.
Connection and community are not the only things that I have found to be similar across borders. Most people want what is best for their loved ones. I saw that when I was in the Caribbean, I also noticed that in South East Asia and I see that here at home in the U.S. Their are always a few exceptions, but the majority of people want the best for their loved ones. They want to see them succeed. They do not wish harm on their family. The views of what is the best, and what is harmful differ throughout the world, but the basic want for good in the lives of loved ones is something that can not be confined my a line on a map. It is ingrained in us, no matter where we are from.
Another cross-cultural thing that I have observed is love. While I was in South East Asia some of the best advice I received was to be try aware of the culture and what is acceptable, but if I make a huge cultural mistake, as long as it was done in love than for the most part it would be ok. One of my most favorite experiences that I have had in my travels was during my home stay in South East Asia. I was staying with a family where four generations lived in one house. The grandmother was the oldest member of the house. They are not sure how old she is, keeping track of birthdays was not important in that culture at the time. She is estimated to be around 93 years old.
I was sitting on the floor of the family house. They were not a wealthy family. The house was completely wooden and there was minimal furniture. If I wanted to use water I had to go to the one and only spout. It was the morning after I had spent the night there. The grandmother did not speak English or the national language, which I spoke very little of but enough to have a small conversation. She only spoke the tribal language of the region, which I speak none of. We had no way to verbally communicate. Even through that, we were able to have an awesome moment together. She sat and looked into my eyes, smiled, and rubbed my leg. Thank goodness I had shaved that day! I looked back at here and smiled and just let her touch my leg. We couldn’t say anything because of severe language barriers, but we were able to give and receive love from one another. That is a moment that I will cherish for years to come. Love really does overcome everything.
Speaking of love, back to fireworks. I hope that everyone had an amazing 3rd/4th of July and stayed safe. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!