Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast hosted by Bill Simmons, who was talking to Fox soccer commentator Rob Stone about the U.S. men’s national team loss to Belgium and elimination from the World Cup. As they discussed the team’s overall performance, Stone offered a big-picture perspective on the event. Instead of poking fun, griping, or bemoaning the loss, he said, “It’s great to have something around which we can all gather that’s not a tragedy.” By “we” he meant the United States.
I am not a soccer fan. I grew up playing the game but eventually moved on to other sports. I have kept an eye on soccer from a distance, but I generally get annoyed with how American soccer fans act toward non-soccer fans. In spite of all that, I do follow the World Cup and enjoy watching the games. And Stone’s point is spot on. I enjoy them most when I am watching with others: cheering, discussing, lamenting, correcting, coaching the TV. It is remarkable to see how a soccer tournament generates interest from so many who normally do not care about sports, how it dominates the conversations in the office hallways, and how it has completely taken over social media. And it is especially remarkable because it isn’t a banding together in grief or outrage, like the events that so often connect Americans, but in celebration and support.
Today is Independence Day, and similar sentiments could be shared about it. It is a day of joining together in celebration of something bigger than any one of us. It honors the past, men like Louis Zamperini, the World War II prison camp survivor who died Wednesday and whose story was so well told in Unbroken. It celebrates freedom, unprecedented freedom. The Fourth of July isn’t about which political party we vote for or how much we love or hate the party currently in office. It is a big celebration of good things.
Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything, including “a time to laugh,” an expression of joy and revelry. Today is a day to celebrate, a simple, thankful day. Some will write lengthy treatises on how great America is or about how fallen it is. Others will use the day as a platform for their politics. Ignore all that. Today, just take advantage of your “time to laugh.” It’s a gift.
God has given us a special time in history to live in the United States. We didn’t choose it. We don’t control it. We should be thankful for it. So today enjoy your cookouts and the look on your kids’ or grandkids’ faces as they run through sprinklers and watch the rockets explode in the sky. It is a great blessing to have something to bring us together that isn’t a tragedy. Celebrate freely that we can enjoy and celebrate so freely.