A swarm of students surrounded me, hands extended ready to shake my hand, wishing me a “Happy Independence Day, Miss!” The students looked radiant in their white uniforms and Indian flag accessories. Some dressed up as the freedom fighters, and some older girls wore beautiful, brightly colored half-sarees. A feeling of joyful pride filled the campus as we shared sweets, took selfies, and prepared for the school’s events.
I helped the students prepare their song and dance performances, and coached a small group of girls to sing “Jana Gana Mana,” India’s national anthem. The August 15th ceremony included a march past, performances, flag raising, speeches, and procession of historical figures. It was humbling to be involved in the celebration of India’s proudest and most patriotic day.
Almost all Indians I know have a deeply-rooted pride for their country, and a fierce argument for “Why India is the best.” It made me ponder whether or not I have that same feeling about my country. Recently, the media has been filled with so much hate regarding American society and politics, that I’m not particularly proud to be American. I joke about how I left the States because of all the drama. The grass seemed greener on the other side.
Americans often forget that we are free because we feel enslaved by our own culture or societal expectations. We take for granted our freedom of speech, ability to vote, and we forget that our unique diversity stems from generations of immigrants who chased the “American Dream.”
On July 4th, Americans are reminded of these opportunities, and on August 15th, Indians display their pride to the world. Although both are joyous celebrations, somehow, a country’s political freedom doesn’t feel free enough. Hatred, corruption, and injustice still exists, and marginalized people groups are still suffering.
In contrast, following Christ offered pure, unadulterated freedom.
2 Corinthians says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Galatians 5:13 also says this about freedom: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
I wonder how I am using my freedom. Is it for my own purposes? Or to purely serve others?
I am proud to be American. I am thankful to God to be a citizen of a free country, and I’m thankful that my Indian brothers and sisters also get to celebrate their freedom. I am even more thankful that I can experience the truest freedom as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Here are some more highlights from August:
1. Carly and I hosted a Spelling Bee Competition for the entire school. Riverside students love competition, and they studied intensely the week before! Only one winner from each class category (3-5, 6-8, and 9-10) came out on top.
Click on the pictures to see the captions.
2. Cycling around the park with my small friend Rishi!
3. Leading worship with Isaac and Vincy. Notice- Isaac is learning how to play guitar! Hopefully he can learn well enough to lead without me.
4. My guitar student Wesley Raj is very creative, so we wrote guitar tabs and created fun images out of the dots to help him remember each chord position.