On Being Free

I had a bucket list long before I ever heard that term.  As a child I dreamed of the places I would go and the adventures I would have.  Many of my dreams have been realized and are are now treasured memories.  But not all of them.  And that’s why after my last birthday when I officially became a “senior” my husband and I decided it was time to get on with the list. 

One item that had worked its way to the top of my bucket list was to travel the United States in an R.V. visiting all the national parks. So here I am in South Dakota on the third week of our journey looking forward to the 4th of July celebration at Mt. Rushmore.  We spent yesterday exploring pretty little Rapid City which bills itself as the “City of Presidents.”   A farsighted group of individuals there decided since the four presidents on Mt. Rushmore drew so many tourists they would exhibit the rest of them in their city.  They raised the necessary funds and invited a group of artists to create statues of all 42 United States presidents which now stand on downtown corners making a most enjoyable and educational walking tour.   All this patriotic spirit has me thinking about the great gift of freedom we American enjoy.  Sometimes things don’t go our way and it’s easy to focus on the negatives in our lives.  But before you throw yourself that pity party, please consider this:

  • How many people would give anything just to have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep?
  • How many are without a source of clean water to drink?
  • How many must restrict what they say?  Where they go, what they do and who they are seen with?
  • How many risk their lives to find work to feed their families?
  • How many would give anything for a chance to attend school?
  • How many people spend their lives running for their lives with no end in sight?
  • How many would trade places with you in a heartbeat?

Also in Rapid City is a sobering exhibit of a section of the Berlin wall including a heartbreaking photo of an 18-year old boy who was shot trying to escape East Berlin and bled to death just 300 feet from safety.   On this 4th of July holiday let’s be mindful that freedom is a rare and precious gift that many have given their lives for.  Our nation was founded on the ideal that all of us are equal. Despite the fact we pledge “liberty and justice for all”  our history shows we have committed some terrible injustices as we lurch in fits and starts toward the ideal of equality.   The United States is not all mom and apple pie but this is a big, bold, beautiful country and I know I am privileged to be here.  Not because I earned it but because others sacrificed and risked to provide that right to me.

 We should all remember the price that has been paid for the freedoms we enjoy and never take them for granted.   And that it is our responsibility to guard the legacy for those who will come after us.  This is an election year.  Vote.  Make your voice heard but listen to what others say, too.  And let’s keep it civil, OK?

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!