Mark Ballard

A cardinal brings message of freedom

Mark Ballard make this wreath in celebration of the Fourth of July.
Mark Ballard make this wreath in celebration of the Fourth of July. Special to The Telegraph

Since Monday is Independence Day, I decided to share this column about freedom I wrote about freedom. It has a message we all need to remember, even these years later. Happy Fourth of July!


The brilliant red male cardinal sat quietly perched on a low-hanging branch in one of the trees in our backyard. Except for the bright red color, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him as I made my way to my car.

Trying not to startle him, I walked up for a closer look. I stood completely still and remained as quiet as I could. Hardly taking a breath, I studied the red bird closely. The cardinal’s profile seemed almost regal as he remained motionless on the branch. His crimson coloring vividly stood out against the lush green landscape.

For a few minutes, I just stood there and checked out every detail. For some reason, I was transfixed. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen a cardinal. It was just a rare opportunity to be able to examine one this closely.

For a few minutes the cardinal didn’t realize he was being observed and seemed perfectly content where he was. Finally, his eye caught mine and, for a split second, he just looked at me. Suddenly, the stillness we had both enjoyed turned into the sound of rustling leaves and flapping wings as he took flight and soared into the brilliant blue sky.

For some reason, I couldn’t move. I stood there, watching as he became smaller and smaller until the red dot finally was engulfed by the vastness of the sky. I wondered, how must it feel to be a bird and have the ability and freedom to fly?

With the annual celebration of our nation’s birth and independence approaching, I have been thinking a lot about what freedom really means. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we take our freedom for granted most of the time. And just like other things we cherish, we don’t miss them until they are gone!

There is definitely a high price to be paid for freedom. Most of us have never had to shed any blood to pay for our freedom. Yet, over the years, much blood has been shed and many lives lost.

It’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing complaints about the way things are handled in our world, nation, state and city. We are definitely living in unsettled times! Instead of trying to make a difference, it is easier to complain. Instead of complaining, I think we should be very thankful for the freedoms we have — freedoms that so many in other countries do not enjoy.

We also need to use one important freedom we often take for granted. Some of us forget the price that was paid for us to be able to vote. Some of us don’t want to wait in line or don’t want to be inconvenienced in any way. We’re too busy! I have always believed that one of the biggest gifts of freedom is the ability to make choices.

Monday is the Fourth of July. Let’s reevaluate what it means for us to be free. Let’s be thankful for our freedom and grateful for the ones who gave their lives and sacrificed so much. Let’s make the choice to exercise the important rights and responsibilities that come with our freedom.

Guess what happened the other day. My new friend, the cardinal, came back for a visit. This time he didn’t land on a branch. This time he chose to perch on one of the American flags I had placed in my patriotic wreath.

He was stunning against the red, white and blue of our flag. He posed proudly as I watched him. I just know he was sent to me for a reason — to remind me to be thankful for my freedom!

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; follow him at; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.