Fireworks show stirs prayer of thanksgiving

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Independence Day means a lot of different things to different people. For some, it’s about spending a day with family, having barbecues and eating watermelon.

For others, it’s a commemoration of our nation’s heritage, a day to reflect upon the many freedoms we celebrate as Americans. Still others take pride in the small-town China Grove Fourth of July Parade that brings in crowds from near and far; and those like Mayor Jimmy Lunsford look forward to the annual City of Troy fireworks show held in the Troy University stadium each July 4th.

To many, the Fourth of July is a culmination of each of these things. But to me, it isn’t.

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Sure, I honor the day as the one in which I was given freedom years ago. I look forward to time with family and friends, enjoying each others’ company in the summer heat. And whether I’m in the city of Troy for the day or spending it away on vacation, I participate in a local July 4th event.

But to me it’s only one thing that makes the holiday my favorite of the year — fireworks.

My favorite non-Christian holiday, that is.

I’m not sure what my fascination with fireworks is exactly. Or where it came from.

Because I overcame the fear of loud sounds at a very young age, firework shows have become somewhat of an obsession. It could be the beautiful ways the fireworks brighten up the sky; maybe it’s the loud, powerful sounds associated with them; maybe it’s more meaningful, like the seasons firework shows represent.

It could even be that fireworks are truly only permitted two times a year on July 4 and New Year’s Eve, and that even on New Year’s Eve I rarely have the chance to see fireworks.

I always knew I had a fascination with fireworks, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2008 it really hit me. That summer I had the chance to go on a three-week trip to Australia. We were leaving July 5.

And so, with packing and newspaper writing galore, I was busy spending my July 4 holiday in the car traveling home to catch a plane. I saw one single firework that night fly above Interstate 65, and when I got home, I just felt something was missing.

Deep down, I was pretty upset about not seeing the fireworks display. But, my world travels did a great job of keeping me distracted.

We spent our three weeks in Australia — first in a place called Hobart, then making our way to Sydney and ending with a trip to the coral reef in Tasmania. The purpose of the stay was to see the Pope, along with millions of others, at World Youth Day in Sydney.

The experience of the pilgrimage overall was one that taught me along the way about trust, simplicity and perseverance. It gave me a new perspective on, well, everything.

There are many moments that stand out in my mind about that trip. But perhaps one of the most prevalent relates to my “obsession.”

Two weeks into our visit to Australia, in the midst of millions of people from across the world singing and dancing under a cold, night sky, I had forgotten about my July 4 loss. But just as our concert ended, the sky lit up with the biggest, most beautiful fireworks display I’d ever seen.

It sounds silly, but I teared up a bit because I felt from deep within God had made a fireworks show just for me. It was like a lesson I’d been taught over and over again on that trip … and over and over again since for that matter … that things don’t always come when I expect them to.

It wasn’t exactly July 4, but it was the best “Fourth of July” holiday I ever spent, celebrating what my country really is about, to me at least: God, principles and most of all, having a little faith.

This July 4th I’ll be spending a weekend in a cabin in North Alabama with some of my greatest friends. I came up with the idea, and they did all the legwork. But, my real and only requirement was … well, I’m sure you can guess.

As I look up at the Chatanooga, Tenn., Independence Day celebration this Sunday, I’ll remember those lessons I learned from fireworks in the land down under.

I’ll recall the principles of my country’s foundation and the principles I hold close to my heart, and I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving to God who has given me freedom and who lights up my sky.

Holli Keaton is news editor of The Messenger. She can be reached via email at