Heritage Day is fast approaching!  I’m excited that I will be in Union City to celebrate this year’s festivities.  If you see me, please reach out; I’d love to connect with you.

For some of us, it’s our grandma’s candy dish, for others a family home; but I suspect that within our village, there is a significant amount of inherited land that has been passed down through the generations.  I also imagine that with the land inheritance there also came an inherited appreciation of its beauty.

Perhaps we have all inherited an appreciation for the wonder that comes from living in a small town, surrounded by vast open land, fireflies, high school football games, church traditions, and community gatherings.  I remember marching as the drum major in the Union City High School band and feeling like the whole community was gathered to support us as we passed under the giant American flag hanging across the downtown intersection.  I believe what we’ve really all inherited is a slice of Americana.

It’s funny when I look at my life here in Chicago.  I think of how I’ve approached it as a small town kid.  I’ve befriended all my neighbors, carry the groceries of a wonderful elderly woman in my neighborhood, make eye contact, stop and smell the flowers in surrounding yards, sign for other people’s UPS packages… all concepts that I surely inherited from my formative years in our magical village.  But, more than that, it’s a spirit of community; a certain set of defining characteristics and an idea of oneness that we’ve all actually inherited.

I’m enthralled by the works of poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, who passed in 2008.  He said, “Beauty isn’t all about just nice, loveliness like.  Beauty is about more rounded, substantial becoming.  So, I think beauty, in that sense, is about emerging fullness; a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also, a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of our unfolding life.”

We’re rural, and so we have to rely on each other more, especially in times of need.  When there is a hurt or a loss, it’s known throughout the town. This level of personal vulnerability is unique, and not to be undervalued.  It takes a trust in compassion, and in your fellow man, to allow access like that into our lives.  That’s incredibly special, almost sacred, I think.

When I drive into town past the spread out land covered with varying greens and crops, while I may not have directly inherited them, their beauty is mine to hold.  There is a tranquility that these lands possess that is there for all of us to indulge within ourselves; a shared value that we’ve all indeed inherited.  Perhaps our nature is the very foundation for the close sense of community that exists in our intimate town.  It forms our borders, and embraces our backyards, and we all cherish it.

So, as we come together this weekend to celebrate this inherited beauty, let us be reminded that it’s not just about this special summer day.  Throughout the year we are greeted with this inheritance in the form of community Easter egg hunts, pancake breakfasts, backyard birthday party gatherings, family dogs, an escaping ride on the elementary school swing set, determined children’s feet crunching through crisp leaves to get to the sea of trusted Halloween porch lights, a Christmas Eve drive to take in all the twinkling lights, tractors along the roadways, filled donation boxes, pole barns, the lull of evening high school football announcers through an open kitchen window, children riding bikes in the street, handed down family recipes shared in the church fellowship hall, good citizen of the year recognition, classic cars along main street, a family of deer running across a field, graveside flowers, farmer’s markets, boy and girl scouts, pond fishing, dinner at a grandparents just down the street, mulberry trees, yard sales, a ringing trumpet of ‘Taps’ on Veteran’s Day, an ice cream cone after a little league game, blankets on the grass to ‘ooh ‘and ‘ah’ the fireworks, rainbows created by field irrigation systems, the scraping hum of neighbors shoveling each other out, family bike rides around the dam, fogged and glowing stained glass during the Christmas church services, and lemonade on the porch as we read the Clarion and feel the breeze pass by.   We have a lot to celebrate as we’ve inherited a great amount of beauty.

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