For obvious reasons, this will be one of the country’s biggest flag-waving months ever. Our magazine isn’t missing the party, either: Look for flag-wearing and -waving neighborhood residents in several stories this month.

But there’s more to being patriotic than displaying flags several times a year, particularly in a neighborhood such as ours.

Most of us are blessed with relative plenty, and few of us have ever been asked to shed any blood – literally or figuratively – for this country. By virtue of age, economic status and pure, dumb luck, few of us can say with any confidence that we’ve had much of a hand in making this country what it is today.

That’s why it’s important, particularly this year, to take a step back and appreciate our freedom all the way down to the neighborhood level – including the freedom to gripe about our city, state and federal governments; the freedom to spend all the money we can put our hands on; the freedom to put our kids in whatever school we can afford; and the freedom to buy ever-larger and more expensive homes.

Most of us reading this magazine live more than charmed lives: We live unbelievably easy lives, all things considered.

And yet, within eyeshot every day, there are neighbors not as fortunate. Down on the corner waving a cardboard sign, up the street at the public school eating a free lunch, it’s not difficult to find people with our same freedoms – they just don’t enjoy as many of the benefits.

This column is too short to argue about why they are where they are, how many of their problems are their fault, or how much, if anything, our country should be doing about these other homeland issues. No, this column is about our patriotism, rather than theirs.

So as we’re driving through our neighborhood watching flags wave in the breeze this month, it’s worth considering what we as individuals can meaningfully do to hold up our end of the patriotic bargain.

Mentor a needy student. Take a homebound neighborhood senior to the grocery store. Give up a Saturday morning to volunteer at a shelter. Donate a few dollars to the YMCA or another neighborhood charity. For a country built on self-sacrifice, patriotism starts right here in our neighborhood.

And if those ideas are too strenuous, how about voting in the school board election July 27? Our property tax bills, and the future of 160,000 kids, are at stake. Yet if Dallas tradition holds, for every 100 flags waving on neighborhood lawns, only four or five of their owners will take the time to vote.

That doesn’t seem like a great way to wind up a month that begins with so much patriotic promise.