It was the end of kindergarten. The school celebrated the end of the year will all kinds of activities including an all school talent show. I was astounded when my very shy six year old came to me and told me he had signed up. “What will you do?,” I asked nervously. This was my kid who never wanted to walk into preschool without holding my hand. “I am going to sing the “God bless the USA” song,” he replied proudly.
Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was a favorite around our farmhouse. A few of the words were always edited. Instead of the lakes of Minnesota it became the fields of Winona describing our little farm village. He always sang it with pride and gusto. But that was in our own backyard, not on a stage, in front of his peers and even worse the sixth graders. I could not say no even though my gut was twisting. I had always told my kids to reach out for their dreams, to face their fears, to not accept limits. How could I say “No, you can’t do this because I am afraid for you?”
So we began to practice. The little Fisher Price tape recorder was put through it’s paces as he sang over and over again. Every morning , every night-probably at least a hundred times we heard,
“ And I’m proud to be an American for at least I know I’m free….”
We chose an American flag shirt and suspenders and cap that matched. He insisted he needed to carry a flag. I thought, “ Oh dear, one more thing to manage on stage.” But he was insistent. And finally the big day arrived.
As the show progressed I became increasingly nervous. This was a very bad idea I thought. I could go grab him and get in the car but I had two little ones with me and it was not possible to make a stealthy getaway. I started to do deep breathing trying to stay calm hoping the room full of elementary students would be kind. Finally the curtains opened and there he was looking so small and alone on the big stage.
“ Please “ I prayed, “Be with him.”
The music began and I closed my eyes in trepidation. And then I heard this strong booming voice coming from this little person. No quivers, no trembling, just a sweet clear voice with no hesitation singing his little heart out.
“ And I won’t forget the men who died (complete with foot stomp) who gave their lives for me”.
And the next thing I knew the entire audience was standing up and singing along.
I learned some lessons that day. I learned that grace and goodness abounds everywhere and that my fears of him being unsupported were unfounded. I also learned you should never underestimate your children-they have strength beyond your expectations. That strength has sustained me now as he has gone on to serve. Now this July 4th he is away from his own family on his fourth deployment personifying the words:
“And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today”
Thank you Lee Greenwood for a song that speaks to generations and comforts those of us whose children are away protecting our freedoms. And thank you son, and all those who are away from home on this holiday on watch for our nation. God bless you and the USA.