Reflection on the 4th

As I celebrated the 4th of July this last Monday I had an unexpected and profound reaction to the most well-known tradition of the day, fireworks.

I was with my brother and some of his friends in downtown Austin watching fireworks from a balcony. In addition to the fireworks by the city, I could see various other fireworks shows all around. There was one show that was so far away that the fireworks themselves weren’t quite visible, only an intermittent red glow on the horizon.

As I watched the glow the fireworks show I was watching launched a number of what I call “flash-bang” fireworks, it’s just a flash and a very loud bang. They’ve always been one of my favorites because you can feel the firework go off in your chest.

But in that moment, with the red glow on the horizon and the thud of explosions in my chest I realized that what I saw and felt has been seen and felt my millions of others in a vastly different way. Millions of soldiers have seen that red glow on the horizon and felt the shockwave of shells and known it as a thing of horror and destruction.

As I pondered this I did not lose the joy and the fun of fireworks, but a profound sense of gratitude permeated the experience. So many people went through so much and I am the beneficiary. It’s easy to lose yourself in a night of fun and festivity, but I was acutely aware of myself and just how blessed I am.

I was challenged not to take anything for granted. Every blessing I have is the result of someone’s toil and effort. Yet so often I live without a second thought for those blessings.

As a leader, I am called to be grateful, to recognize and appreciate and uplift the work and effort of those around me. We do not live in a vacuum, we are always receiving and giving through our relationships and daily interactions. I challenge myself daily, and I challenge you, be aware of your blessings and thank somebody every day.

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