Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you. Romans 15:7 (RSV)
It was a cloudy, quiet July Fourth for us, that year of 1988. My husband worked. There were no parades. We’d decided not to spend the extra money on fireworks. You can barely see them, anyway, in Alaska’s summer twilight. We didn’t even have a picnic. Yet it’s the Fourth of July that I remember and treasure the most. The two-story log home where we were living was not our own. We were house-sitting for the summer for our friends Lou and Elsa, who were visiting their native Czechoslovakia for the first time in twenty years. <!–split–>
As a young married couple, they had fled the streets of Prague in terror when Soviet tanks swept through the city in 1968. For days before, Elsa had hidden beneath the bed in their cramped apartment with her two little girls. When they left, they could say good-bye to no one. They simply disappeared.
Lou and Elsa found a welcome in the United Sates, eventually making their way to Alaska. They learned English and worked hard. Lou, a master craftsman, fitted each log in their home with mortar and hope. Elsa tended a fruitful vegetable garden and produced wonderful aromas from kettles simmering in her tidy kitchen.
I was alone in Lou and Elsa’s living room in the afternoon on that Fourth of July, when I suddenly burst into tears. This is it, I thought. This is the real Fourth of July. They came to America to find “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and here I am, standing in the middle of their dream. I had a glimpse of how precious this beautiful, bountiful country of ours really is. And so I waved the only flag I had … my tears, genuine and proud.