Hitting the road a bit before nine a.m. on this year’s Independence Day, I spent more than an hour on a combined run/walk, covering 5.4 miles of my Indianapolis neighborhood. What I encountered on a glorious morning, under blue skies and mid-70s temps, was tremendously reassuring about the state of our nation.
It was pure peace.
I first came across a woman, perhaps my age, who was taking a walk. I will mention that she was African American only because I am a white person, and I often wonder if I might meet folks who are suspicious of whites, who perhaps have had their own bad experiences with us. Indeed, every person I saw on this morning was an African American, a common experience for me as our neighborhood is largely populated by persons of color, and my common experience is always to see smiles and hear friendly words.
The walking woman caught my smile. We both waved and as we got close said our good mornings. It was a perfectly familiar meeting of two strangers.
I remind you of what people see when I am out running and walking. My hair is in a pony tail. I have on a sports bra, which is easily recognizable under my shirt. And my fingernails are always painted. I sometimes wonder what people think after they see me: “Crazy white guy . . . or woman. I’m not sure which.”
Mellow soul music now emanated out an open window. I wanted to lasso the house and drag it with me. After a bit, it was bouncy hip-hop to help speed my way.
In my second mile, I saw two men removing large grills from a pickup. Soon, I arrived at one of the several parks that might be on any given route I take. This one has a paved trail that rings the park. Immediately, I found groups gathering. As I approached the pavilion, a younger couple was minding a grill that already was in action.
They saw me, so I made motions with my hands as if to get the wafting smoke to come my way. When I could see them notice, I said, “It smells soooo gooood.” The woman thanked me. I replied, “Invite me back later to eat.” They both laughed and she said, “You have a good one.” I thanked her and wished them both the same.
Leaving the park and arriving at a busy road on which there is a rescue station, a fire truck was returning to the garage. Then, I noted some of the gray garbage bins which had not yet been brought in after yesterday’s trash day. I thought, our public services constantly run smoothly for us.
Two young guys on bikes approached from the rear. I thought, it’s good to see kids still ride bikes.
As the boys passed me, I passed a house where a number of people filled a yard and the grills were producing a great aroma. I would observe and smell the same thing, again and again.
With a mile to go, I spied a dog in a front yard, and he was not leashed. I was wary, so I paid attention. I noted the real fire hydrant in the yard. It was in the middle of the yard, so I knew it was put there by the owner. Then, as if on cue, the canine raised his leg and watered it. Thanks for the chuckle, Fido.
It’s funny, but it was seeing the dog that prompted me to think about writing this piece. I looked up at the blue sky, now littered with the lightest of billowy clouds, then I dropped my gaze to soak in the deep green of the trees’ leaves, then down to the grass which, because we’ve had plenty of rain, still dazzles spring-green.
I came upon a church. It had a special billboard planted by the road, announcing the free meals that are available to young people, eighteen and under, all summer long. This is an Indianapolis program, covering the entire town.
I thought, this is my country. This is our spirit. This is the land over which Old Glory waves.
I have been as troubled as anyone about our government, especially the edition that has been in place since January. Yet, for all of the fighting, the bickering, the bipartisanship, and the downright nonsense and embarrassment, we remain the United States of America, from sea to shining sea.
We need to work hard to retain it, that’s for sure. For now, I want to reassure you: we still have it.
We still have it, so let’s enjoy it. Let’s relish each other, everyone of every color, every culture, every creed. Let’s deeply appreciate and value this marvelous 241-year-old treasure. And let’s each do our part to preserve it.
I arrived home. After getting some water, I headed to the garden to sow a second planting of spinach and kale. Julie joined me. She sowed the seeds and I began fingering the ground around the potatoes. As I pulled up one spud after another, she checked the green beans. Soon, we had in our bucket two-thirds of our evening meal.
The day before, we noted our first okra fruit growing. We never have grown okra, so we’ve been watching the plants closely. Having not seen any blossoms, we could not understand how there could be fruit. Now, this morning, Julie told me to look. She had spied the first pretty yellow flowers.
I took a picture and we headed into the house with our potatoes and beans, this bright okra flower perfectly symbolizing the joy which was in my heart.