Independence Day is my favorite holiday. Not because I love to shoot fireworks, eat hot-dogs, and take the day off. It is because I live in an independent country where I have the freedom to choose how I celebrate.
Living in two different cultures, I have experienced how folks living in rural and urban communities celebrate their independence, freedom, and unity. Each of my neighborhoods have established traditions to celebrate the birthday of our country.
When I was growing up in our rural neighborhood, some of those traditions were actually work related and included livestock chores, checking irrigation wells, harvesting wheat, and baling straw. Baling was a cooperative effort in our neighborhood and always fun, especially on Independence Day. When we baled on July 4th, the traditional farmer talk and banter was always lighthearted. I know today that was how our parents expressed their gratitude to live on farms homesteaded by their immigrant grandparents.
The only thing I didn’t like about baling was the boys always got to drive the tractors. I was not pleased. You see, on our farm, things were different. I had learned to drive a tractor, well, actually steer the tractor long before I could reach the pedals. I felt stripped of my freedom and independence when they wouldn’t let me drive, but I didn’t say a word because I did not want to be banished to the house to help make lunch.
To sooth my wounded ego, I reminded myself that, most likely when the work was done, one of our Dads would suggest they pitch horseshoes after chores. On July 4th, the evening would end eating homemade ice cream and shooting fireworks. Nothing was better than spending the Fourth of July with the neighbors.
The first time I celebrated Independence Day in Washington, DC, I was invited to join friends at a barbecue. This gathering was an annual tradition in the neighborhood. It was a cooperative dinner and the evening was filled with lots of fun conversation.
Also joining in the festivities were friends that grew up in the local area, graduate students from England, the Netherlands, and China. A family from Mexico had just become U.S. citizens and Bolivian friends who had danced and marched in the National Fourth of July Parade.
After dinner, our hostess served homemade ice cream and we all sat down as neighbors to watched the fireworks. Nothing is better than spending the Fourth of July with the neighbors.
Last year, I had to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This little detail was not listed on the itinerary for the photography workshop I was attending. In the past, I would have found a way to avoid the walk and, in turn, missed an incredible experience.
The truth is I am afraid of heights, but that was only part of the reason for my anxiety. The other - I was afraid to admit to a group of people I had just met that I was scared. I didn’t want to be perceived as different. I’m okay with unique, but not different.
In our society today, it is easier to point out our differences than acknowledge our sameness. Easy is the perfect out; for not being willing to learn or accept circumstances or cultures that are different than our own.
I am sharing a favorite quote by writer and artist, Austin Kleon. He says, “Be nice (the world is a small town).” His quote reminds us that a little kindness and respect go a long way when we meet people living in cultures different that our own.
This is one of the examples I use when talking about life in both the rural and urban cultures.
I was raised in a neighborhood, a rural community, called Bruning, Nebraska. I have friends who were raised in a neighborhood, an urban community called Brooklyn, New York. See the pattern?
It has been an incredible experience to live in both the rural and urban cultures the past few years. Through these experiences, I discovered my passion to help create better understanding of dynamics between these cultures.
When I was a little kid, I had to walk across a bridge over the Little Blue River. I was afraid and didn’t want to tell the other kids I was afraid of heights. I wanted to see what was on the other side. One of the older kids saw my fear and, without saying a word, he took my hand. Little did I know being brave enough to cross that bridge would be the first steps on my journey from the Blue to Brooklyn and back.
Using words and images, I explain my passion to create better understanding between rural and urban culture.