One summer several years ago, the phone rang and the conversation that transpired is one I’ll never forget.
At the other end was Betty Spivak, a woman who had known my father for over a half century. She was phoning to talk to an old friend about a proud moment. Her grandson was about to win an Olympic gold medal in men’s swimming.
For a woman who once lived in Burrows in neighboring Carroll County, it was a life moment. It was an American moment.
As my father watched the telecast in Indiana and she watched in New Jersey, only “The Star-Spangled Banner” could be heard echoing over the phone as the men’s team stood for the medal ceremony. My father and Betty could have spoken words during that time, but it was a moment to be savored and they weren’t about to spoil it.
There are moments like those that define why we feel we do about our country, and as we approach a long Fourth of July weekend, there are plenty of moments we all experience that define what being an American is.
With no apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and his signature line, think of all the reasons why you might be an American if ……
You might be an American if you see a member of the National Guard kissing a spouse or a loved one and wonder how long it will be when, or if, they will see each other again.
You might be an American if all you really want is to raise 2.2 children, have a significant other and own a home.
You might be an American if you root out loud for Miss USA in the Miss Universe Pageant, even if no one at the pageant can hear you or cares.
You might be an American if the only day you dread more than your dentist appointment is April 15.
You might be an American if you simply hear the words “September 11” and wonder why some people had to attack people like you simply because they were in the wrong building or on the wrong jet at the wrong time.
You might be an American if you listen to debates about immigration reform and wonder if your own ancestors faced any hardships when they came to this country.
You might be an American if you know the last surviving World War II veteran in your neighborhood, church or club and you acknowledge what they did for this country saved more than just our name and our way of life.
You might be an American if you spend more than you make, eat more than you should and speak or text on a cellphone longer than you actually have meaningful conversations with someone.
You might be an American if some of your happiest days involved getting your driver’s license, going to the prom or voting for the first time.
You might be an American if you see people in downtown Tehran or any masked member of the Taliban burning the American flag and say to yourself “These people just don’t get it.”
You might be an American if you’ve taken your own freedom of the press for granted, even when it carries stories of horrific events in other countries that don’t demand democracy and the freedom that protects it.
You might be an American if you’re wearing a shirt that says “USA” on the front and a label that says “Made in China” inside it.
You might be an American if you wonder why exchange students from other countries are so excited to be in a place you’ve been in all your life.
You might be an American if you suddenly watch for buglers when you hear the lonely strain of “Taps” being played at a funeral, then brace yourself for a volley of gunshots in tribute.
You might be an American if you watched “Saving Private Ryan” and are grateful the only sacrifice you make for this country comes out of your paycheck.
You might be an American if you’re sitting underneath a star-filled mid-summer sky in the next four days, witness the illumination of night over a park or lake and say to yourself, “What a country.”
Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.