I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. From about the age of 5, I knew the names and importance of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and John Hancock. By the time we moved when I was 13, I had been to the greens at Lexington and Concord more times than I could count. I just assumed that everyone else in the country was as immersed in the history of its birth as we were in Boston. Even if you didn't study it, you absorbed that history just by being where it happened.
When we moved to the Midwest, I discovered that most kids my age didn't have a good understanding of how our country was formed. They didn't know about "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," and they didn't know what the greens at Lexington and Concord looked like. As a parent raising kids out here in the Midwest where the history revolves around pioneers and covered wagons, it's sometimes tough to bring home the importance of what was done by the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. We can't go see the places where it happened, so it's sometimes tough to make it real.
Also, in this day of relative morality, it can be hard to impress upon our children that the Founding Fathers had a deep and abiding faith in God. While they championed freedom of religion, they never intended for God to be removed from our society. Taking a few moments as we celebrate the birth of our country this weekend to remember the history and the sacrifices made for our freedom is well worth the time and effort. Choose an activity or two that fits your kids and your schedule and make your weekend a bit more meaningful.
- Print off a copy of the Declaration of Independence. You can find a good, printable copy at EarlyAmerica.com. Read through the document with your kids. Much of it is going to be tough for kids to understand, so focus on a few important facts.
- The second paragraph states "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." This means that it should be obvious to everyone that people are all created equal. Remind your kids that Genesis 1:27 says that God created us in His image. It doesn't say He created some people to be the image of Him and others to be just ordinary. Because we are made in God's image, we are all equally important to God.
- The same sentence in the Declaration of Independence goes on to say "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Talk with your kids about where this document says our rights come from. They are not given to us by the government; they are given by God. While the Declaration of Independence tells us we have the right to life, freedom and to pursue happiness, the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:11 and James 1:2-3 that we are to have joy in all circumstances, whether they be good ones or trying ones. Impress upon your children that happiness is fleeting but joy comes from our salvation in Christ.
- Show your kids how many men signed the Declaration of Independence. Let them know that those 56 men would have been considered traitors to England. By putting their names on that document, they made themselves targets for the British army. If they had been caught or if the colonies had lost the war, those men would have been executed. It took courage for them to put their signatures on the bottom of that piece of parchment. Talk with your kids about how it's not always easy to do what is right. Sometimes it requires sacrifice on our part to stand up for what we know is right. We may lose popularity or we may suffer financially or physically, but we should always stand up for what God tells us is right. We should not be afraid of doing right because 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power.
- Visit a military cemetary if you have one nearby. Let your kids see how many men and women have served and died to protect our freedoms. Walk around and read some of the tombstone inscriptions. If you come across tombstones that show dates where the soldier died during a war or conflict, point them out to your kids. Freedom isn't free, and our children need to understand the cost of being free. Take some flowers or small American flags with you and place them on the graves of soldiers who don't have any arrangements on the grave. (Check the cemetary's policy on this before you do it.) Before you leave, pray as a family and thank God for the sacrifices of the men and women in the military. Thank Him for the opportunity to live in a free country.
- Make cookies and thank you cards and take them to your local Veteran's of Foreign Wars hall to thank the veterans for their service. Matthew 25:40 tells us that whenever we do something for others, it is like doing it for Jesus. Thanking the men and women who served our country is an excellent way to serve them.
- If fireworks are legal in your town, light some sparklers and show your kids how bright they are in the dark night. Remind them that Jesus told us in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Tell your kids that sin is like a black stain that makes everything dark. Because of sin, we can't be near God, but Jesus came to take away the darkness of sin and light the path to God. Because of Jesus, we can have a relationship with God. Jesus lights the way, and unlike the sparkler, his light will never go out.
Whether you're at the lake or having a cookout at home this weekend, take a few minutes to impress upon your children the importance of valuing freedom.