I attended the most beautiful Native American wedding ceremony of my long-time friend, Mark, to his new husband, Steve, this past weekend. It was sacred as they shared their love and commitment to each other with those who love and journey through life with them.

As we approach our 248th birthday of our great United States of America, I am so grateful that this country was founded on freedoms and inclusion for all. Our forefathers declared, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I am grateful every day to be part of this loving union as a U.S. citizen.

However, I am also sad, and if honest, angry at times, about the state of our country.  Sad and angry that we declared these truths 248 years ago and that they still don’t consistently apply to all human beings in each of our 50 states and 16 territories, and in some cases, that these freedoms are being stripped away by present day lawmaking. While we can affect what is happening at the macro level by advocating and signing petitions for laws and policies that protect and expand personal freedoms, writing and calling our representatives asking them to support specific legislation, and voting in all elections, we can also each individually have a tremendous, immediate impact on furthering people’s freedoms this 4th of July by:

  • Inviting someone who is alone to participate in our family and friends’ celebrations
  • Supporting the elderly or people with disabilities who may need special accommodations to celebrate with us
  • Listening to a teenage family member who is unsure of their gender identity, sexual orientation, or other aspects of their life’s pathway with loving kindness and without judgment or opinion
  • Calling out, gently but firmly, deep-rooted familial biases or prejudices, so we can be more inclusive where people feel like they can join us and belong
  • Reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other foundational documents and reflecting on the principles they embody individually or with our children or grandchildren
  • Supporting local businesses, especially those that are minority-owned or have a mission of giving back to the community
  • Making a list of what you’re grateful for about living in the United States of America and sharing it with others; asking them to share what they are grateful for, too.

By incorporating these reflective and actionable ideas into your 4th of July celebrations, we can honor the spirit of the Declaration of Independence while actively contributing to the ongoing promotion of personal freedoms that we cherish.