In America’s family of holidays, Independence Day is Thanksgiving’s extroverted cousin.
Thanksgiving is wonderful because it invites a day to reflect, to practice gratitude, and to spend time with a group of people you care about. The three healthiest habits a person can perform.
But there can be something that feels insular about Thanksgiving as well. Like the date-less teen at prom, people unable or uninterested in spending time with relatives can feel more isolated as their friends retreat to their family homes. And as units, families segregate from the broader community. You may see new sides of people you love during Thanksgiving, but you rarely encounter new people all together.
July 4 offers the inverse of this dynamic. We gather with family and friends, but we tend to cast a wider net – perhaps multiple families assemble for a barbecue, or you invite a few interesting coworkers to the fireworks later. In the evening, we lie shoulder to shoulder with the entire neighborhood, and we appreciate – for the first time, perhaps – the charming, noisy, colorful quilt of which we are a part.
Thanksgiving draws us close to friends and family, but July 4 draws us closer to something just as vital, yet often less nourished: our community. Thanksgiving narrows our definition of family; July 4 broadens it.
Most importantly, they symbolize American opportunity: the opportunity for us to recklessly gorge to discomfort in the presence of loved ones willing to perform the Heimlich maneuver should things go askew.
To my American friends, cast your wider nets.