Put down the hotdog and the sparkler and really give it a little thought.
We have all come through so much together in recent years and it hasn't given us much time to reflect about anything. If you were laid off from a job it's probably even been a little harder to come up with much to feel good about but it's there and it's worth remembering.
Let's start with the idea that we are grateful enough to live in a country where second chances happen all the time. Neighbors get in arguments over garbage cans or we get caught speeding on the highway and there's a reasonable consequence followed by another chance. That may seem like a small moment but in so many other countries the smaller details of life have to be watched carefully so that out-sized punishments aren't meted out.
In America we even celebrate the politicians who have opinions that we can't stand. We support the groups that are working for a cause that we don't think is right and we defend the faiths we don't even understand. Imagine how much grace it took at our founding to want to hold up as ideal the idea that we don't know everything and are willing to be wrong.
That's why great things are always being discovered by Americans whether they were born here or just recently emigrated. It's because we can let our thoughts wander without fear of retribution and sometimes those thoughts lead to the light bulb moments of new cures or inventions.
We don't restrain the opinions of others even if they make our blood boil and even better, we often listen and then debate them back. Pushing at our intellectual boundaries has often lead us to make great changes like making sure every single citizen, regardless of race, gets the chance to vote.
Or, even after 9/11 when we were all so frightened we took a breath and stood up for our neighbors who worshiped at mosques and we tried to listen rather than react.
Our ability to respond like that in moments of such great national grief is the legacy handed down to us by all of those great men and women who helped found this country based on a hope they had of a free society that might be fulfilled in the generations to come after them.
Whenever we choose to hear someone out with the idea that we might learn something, we fulfill the promise in a way that so few other countries have ever been able to match. And in the space where differing ideas meet is the potential for greatness.
That's who we are as a country and it's what others often miss when they look at us in anger and can't understand why we don't restrain ourselves more often.
In America we may often stumble but we have this gift given to us by our forefathers that says we can always try again tomorrow because at our core we believe that humanity is basically good. We keep that ideal alive by listening and even more powerfully by arguing and then shaking hands later.
Take a moment this Sunday and look around at the celebrations that are happening in towns everywhere across America. Listen for awhile to neighbors arguing over the Cubs versus the White Sox or new financial laws versus a free market or even whether or not stem cell research is a blessing or not and rejoice. Tomorrow is another day and those of us fortunate enough to call America home will get another chance to go out there and talk about it some more.
A special shout out to all of our service men and women who are serving in foreign countries, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to keep our country free.
Martha Randolph Carr's latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info, call Cari Dawson Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail Cari@cagle.com.