It’s no secret that I’m really soft hearted, and it doesn’t take much to choke me up. Chick Flicks pretty much do it all the time, sweet things my daughter or grandchildren say, and a deceased animal on the side of the road will do it every time. Every version ever filmed of Little House On The Prairie, about half the episodes of Private Practice, and hundreds of books I’ve read. Publix commercials. And those Proud Mom moments like awards ceremonies, outstanding band moments, graduations and a wedding. Witnessing the birth of my grandchildren. Those are understandable. Lots of other folks would admit to similar experiences. Then there are those really dumb things like watching the Mickey Mouse parade come down the street at Disney World. Fireworks over the lake on the 4th of July.
A few weeks ago I attended the final night of VBS, where the kids “perform” for the adults, receive their awards, eat hot dogs, and pick up their arts and crafts projects to carry home. They go through the assembly service like every other night. Part of the routine is saying The Pledges: to the American Flag, the Christian Flag, and to the Bible. As soon as I placed my hand over my heart, and said the words “I pledge allegiance”, the lump formed in the back of my throat, and my voice refused to work. To my horror, my chin quivered a time or two, and I felt the telltale burning in my eyelids, which warned me that my eyes would soon be filling. I quickly recomposed myself, and mouthed the remaining words. Not much better with the pledge to the Christian flag. I think I was finally able to squeak out the last few words to the Bible pledge. I was really happy nobody was sitting near me.
For years, at a ballgame or church service, (or wherever it might be played/sung) The Star Spangled Banner has always brought a lump to my throat. Depending on my surroundings, I can usually recover enough to sing about the last half of it. Sometimes there is no recovery, and I either just fake it, try to squeak through it, or sometimes simply just listen and reflect.
When I was a kid, we said the Pledge every day at school, and I was unmoved. Was it that I was callous to it, or just recited it so much that it became meaningless?
Today in church we did the pledge thing again. Same story. Here come the lumps. The burning eyelids. The squeaky voice (or none at all). We sang the America The Beautiful, and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! (and it wasn’t the Bulldog fight-song version!!). Well, the more truthful statement would be that “everyone else sang”. I just squeaked, or didn’t even try. The pastor’s wife and daughter sang a riveting tune of sacrifice, liberty, and freedom.
With July 4th only a few days away, Liberty, Freedom, and Sacrifice are close in our thoughts, and paying homage to our flag and our country seemed the appropriate thing to do. After church there was barbecue lunch, with all the sides and desserts you could imagine. On the drive home, I was thinking that sometimes it’s really annoying to get so choked up during anything patriotic. It can be downright embarrassing.
I realized two things. One thing is clearly evident – I/we don’t do it near enough.
But the other thing is – if I did it more often, would I become like the school kid who just does it as a mundane part of my day? A recitation of words that don’t mean anything? May it never be. Though I do wish I/we did it more often, I hope the time never comes when pledging allegiance to my country (even with all her faults), and to my God, would fail to bring a sting to my eyes and a lump to my throat. I don’t think the founding fathers of our nation, or any subsequent American Soldier would mind at all. And I’m fairly certain God doesn’t mind either.