Leadership

An Independence Day Memory Is A Gift That Keeps On Giving

When my mother finally stopped for a breather on her birthday and Independence Day, you'd almost get the sense that she – not us – celebrated and relished the moment most.

Leadership

An Independence Day Memory Is A Gift That Keeps On Giving

When my mother finally stopped for a breather on her birthday and Independence Day, you'd almost get the sense that she – not us – celebrated and relished the moment most.

July 3rd, 2024
An Independence Day Memory Is A Gift That Keeps On Giving
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Until she died in the Spring of 2012, my mother's July 5 birthday and America's Independence Day were co-celebrants, often for gatherings that extended well beyond the immediate family.

Those celebrations will blend forever. They spark unbowed hope and thanks.

The common denominator of that hope and thanks is work and the grace and fullness it confers to those who get to do it.

One of my mom's heroes was an older cousin named John.

Like her, John was born in Providence. Educated at La Salle Academy and Providence College, John worked as a bricklayer. He was active in Bricklayer's Union Number 1, and became its president.

Later, in 1940, John was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for 27 years, distinguishing himself as a legislator who worked tirelessly on issues of physical and mental health, aging, education, and literacy.

My mom's hero, her cousin John E. Fogarty, once hosted my mom during her nursing student days in the 1940s for a couple of days she'd never forget in Washington, D.C.

I was standing at his side when the doors of an elevator opened," my mother would recall more than five decades later. "He introduced me to each of them as they got off the elevator, all Senators and Congressmen."

What permanently etched itself in my mother's mind were two things.

One was that she was standing next to a bricklayer, an essential part of John Fogarty's identity and key to how he would rise to become who he later became.

Two, in my mother's mind, his eloquent silence was an equally important part of his being.

He'd often sit in a roomful of people and take it in and listen," she'd say. "Listening was how he'd win them over."

My mom worked the better part of 364 days a year. She raised children, engineered a household, taught us how and where to set the glazier's points against a new pane of glass to repair the windows we broke with baseballs, and saw to the life and well-being of the seven of our souls, leaving just a smidge of time for her friends.

Many of those were 14-hour days. Many of those hours – when we'd gone off to school or play – she'd spend transforming the view through a picture window in the kitchen into a resplendent, tiered blend of garden, grove, and pasture that fed into the forest's edge, an acre or more from the house.

When she'd finally stop on her birthday and Independence Day, you'd almost get the sense that she – not us – celebrated and relished the moment most.

She may have been reveling in the early Summer state of her gardens, each a full display of aesthetic intent and painstaking work in the dirt.

Or her joy may have been us.

We, the ones singing in her honor and inhabiting the magical pastoral place she'd brought into being through countless hours on her hands and knees and carrying on, each in our way, a life of service to others as the greatest of our gifts.

Independence Day, despite recent polarization in recent years, offers us an opportunity to focus on common ground, shared values, and the nation's collective future. Of course, this includes honoring common heroes and celebrating historical figures and moments that highlight American resilience, courage, and innovation.

It offers us, too, an opportunity to stop to recognize contributions from diverse backgrounds that have collectively shaped the nation.

Like a bricklayer or a former nurse who brought up seven children, each of whom has gotten time and opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with others in their efforts.

Reason enough for unbowed hope and thanks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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