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The last week of June brought a brief hiatus for me as I celebrated another birthday, June ended, July began and America celebrated its 240th birthday.

I truly enjoyed time off with my children. We did simple things: grilling, fire pits, watched fireworks, cleaned out and refurbished a sandbox and spent time at my parents’ place for a Fourth of July cookout and sparklers (before the rain).

The one evening when the kiddos and I enjoyed a fire pit truly felt like “Small Town USA.” As we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire and soaked up its warmth, we chatted with next-door neighbors. Neighbors to the other side of us and up the street also spent time in their backyards. They chatted, laughed, played and who knows what else (we have high hedges). Nevertheless, it was just families and friends taking advantage of a beautiful summer evening.

It’s amazing how celebration, merriment and patriotism quickly turned to hatred, outrage, shock and anger as two black men died at the hands of police officers Tuesday (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and Wednesday (in Minnesota) and five police officers died when an Army Reservist opened fire on a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. Protesters were there in support of the two shooting victims.

Family and friends on social media pondered the state of our nation as a result of these tragedies. A cousin laments having to raise her daughter in a world so full of violence. Others shared memes urging a stop to the violence, to the hatred. Memes urging unity, that all lives matter, that cop lives matter.

The violence and hatred have to stop. For our sake. For our children’s sake. For our future’s sake. We need more love, more unity and, really, more events like the backyard gatherings my family experienced over our holiday weekend.

The example begins at home.

Make it a good one.