By Harriette Grimes
I don’t write very many letters. Most of my writing time is given to this weekly column I call “a bite of life.” I call it “a bite of life” because I write about everyday, ordinary things that happen in life. Some are happy, some are funny, some are sad, some are nostalgic, some are inspirational, some are insightful, some are just happenings, but they are all possible because I live here in America.
Let me congratulate you, America, on your 238th birthday and the soon-to-be 227th birthday of the Constitution of the United States. And let me thank you for the words we Americans know as the Bill of Rights. I’m sure you’re aware that some Americans believe they are above the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and don’t have to abide by them. But stay strong and hang in there, America. I know you will continue to survive.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Long before you ever existed, America, the world was given a set of rules to live by. They were called the Ten Commandments. The fact that not everyone chose to live by them is one reason you came into existence. But, even though the Ten Commandments have not always been honored, the world is still here and most people are still striving to be better persons and live useful lives. So, yes, America, you will become even greater and purer as you continue to endure. And your importance in the world will keep growing as you always endeavor to show other countries the real meaning of freedom.
I know you’re not perfect, America, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not either. But because of you, I have opportunities and choices that many people don’t have. I know and you know that you can’t be perfect until all my fellow Americans and I are perfect. But I admire you, America, for striving for perfection.
Ever since World War II when I learned the song “The White Cliffs of Dover,” I’ve prayed for “Johnny to go to sleep in his own little room again,” and for “Tomorrow, when the world is free.” I thank you, America, for all the heroes who have fought to bring about that “Tomorrow, when the world is free.”
I honor the memory of all those who died fighting for “Johnny to go to sleep in his own little room again.”
I salute all Americans who, with pride, wear and have worn the service uniforms of our country.
America, I know I can’t write like Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin or lead our troops like George Washington or Norman Schwarzkopf or negotiate like Henry Kissinger or James Baker. And I wasn’t elected to govern like Harry Truman or Bill Clinton. I know I can’t do those things. I think about the old man who was walking along the beach one dawn. A younger man noticed the old man was picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea.
“Why are you doing that?” the younger man asked.
The old man replied that the starfish would die if left stranded up on the beach because the sun would dry them out.
“But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish. How can your effort make any difference?”
As the old man looked at the younger one and flung another starfish into the sea, he answered, “It makes a very big difference to that one.”
I know what I can do, America. I can strive to be a better me right where I am. I can be a better wife, a better mother, a better grandmother, a better great-grandmother, a better friend, a better American!
Oh, yes, America, I want to tell you how I feel about Old Glory, our emblem of unity. I salute it and respect it. I’m thankful for its red stripes that proclaim valor and courage, for its white stripes that proclaim liberty and purity and for its star-studded field of blue that stands for loyalty and justice. And you know something else, America? A big lump of pride swells in my throat when Old Glory parades by, and it also brings tears of joy and thankfulness to my eyes.
I love you, America, and I want to thank you for being America. And, even more than that, I thank God that I am an American.
(Editor’s note: The West Orange Times originally ran this June 30, 1994, as a “bite of life” column by H. Lee-Allen, the pen name of Harriette Grimes.)