Southampton’s annual July 4 parade, held this Saturday, is often compared to a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s very “Americana.” Families with small children line the miles-long route, dressed in red, white and blue, waving tiny flags.
For a time, I liked the idea of the parade but didn’t feel the need to attend, reasoning that it would be all crowds and loud noises. But two years ago, my sister and I hopped on our bikes and made the quick journey to Main Street, and I was hooked—not necessarily because I was so into fire trucks, but because of the atmosphere. For the two-plus hours of the annual parade, strangers and neighbors are there for the sole purpose of celebrating family, friends, American pride and the return of carefree summer days.
There are few things I love more than country music, BBQs and being outside. Obviously, my senses kick into overdrive over 4th of July weekend. The holiday is often spent with people who feel the same way; I once asked a friend if he was free to hang out. His response: “Am I free? This is America, I’m always free!”
As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the feeling often enjoyed at parades and other festive occasions, all of which point to the general good of the public. Kindness and niceties seem to get lost in the shuffle in our 24/7 news cycle, and also in anecdotal—but often verifiable—evidence that the Hamptons attracts some pretty rude people.
But I try to not let a few incidents ruin my general outlook, something I’m constantly reminded of whenever I go to the beach and see the lineup of flip-flops at the entrance.
A friend and onetime East End weekender told me that she decided to move out here when she went to the beach with her grandma and saw those flip-flops. A New York City resident at the time, she marveled at the carefree, trusting relationships that they represented.
For sure, there are a few bad eggs out there. If I leave the beach and find my flip-flops gone, I only have myself to blame. I’m not naïve to what could happen, but with all that’s constantly going on, it’s a nice comfort to feel that I can ditch my flip-flops and enjoy sand beneath my toes and the freeing feeling of being barefoot on the beach no later than at the exact moment the pavement ends.
Yes, the Hamptons is safer than most places, but I’m reminded of the general good of people practically everywhere I travel. Something that always amazes me is the number of times people hand their smartphone to me to take a picture, under the assumption that it will be returned. As a general rule of thumb, I only hand my phone to people who I feel like I can outrun…but that’s certainly not a foolproof way to ensure I’ll get it back.
Why do I do it? Why do I often find myself in a photography exchange with complete strangers where we take each other’s phones? Because I haven’t jumped onboard the “selfie” wagon quite yet. And because I love group shots of friends and family, and I couldn’t imagine not having any because of a perennial fear of being robbed.
So, as we head into the height of summer madness, I want to say thank you to the people who go out of their way to remember the value of being nice.
And on that note, a big shoutout to the people who came out in the pouring rain to cheer on runners during the annual Shelter Island 10K two weeks ago. It was the first time in the race’s 36-year history that foul weather prevailed. But, like singing and dancing, racing in the rain is invigorating. Especially when friends and strangers take time out of their day to get equally soaked to come out to support.