Freedom to Live

            Independence Day has always been an exciting holiday to celebrate.  There is always so much to look forward to as it finally feels like the ripeness of summer is here to stay for the anticipated season.  I look forward to the brilliant firework displays in the sky, the BBQ picnics, the warm, inviting sun and of course the time spent with family and friends.  While these elements of the 4th are worthwhile and important culturally, this year as the day approaches I realize that they are actually not the principle reason for this holiday. Up until now, I always focused on these aspects because they are so enjoyable and tangible.  Little did I know that I was not appreciating the real purpose of this holiday, but actually taking the 4th of July and what it stands for, for granted.
          I have always lived my life enjoying one moment to the next, but I never really considered the importance of the rights that I exercised day to day in that enjoyment.  Now that I have kids, I have started to recognize how important those rights actually are not only to myself, but even more importantly to my children as I naturally want them to have the best life possible.   As I have contemplated the magnitude of these rights, I have only started to grasp the significance of them as I realize they dictate every aspect of my children’s lives from their safety, to their enjoyment, to their livelihood and even their future.  Simply because they were born in the United States, they enjoy innately an array of rights that I have always, up until now, taken for granted. 

          As American citizens, we experience daily life down to the seconds in the hour much differently than the majority of the world’s population.  When you consider the populations of the impoverished and war torn countries compared to the developed countries, we as members of a highly developed nation are vastly outnumbered.  It is in contemplation of that comparison that I begin to understand and appreciate the rights that I enjoy every day simply because I live in the United States of America.  I am so thankful for this citizenship because of what it means for every level of my livelihood.  My kids as they grow up and become adults will never know the devastations associated with living in those third world countries simply because of where they where born: here in the United States of America.

          My children don’t live in a community patrolled by adolescents armed with AK47s where bars on the windows as well as a bomb shelter down the hall are an attempt to keep them safe from a decade long war   They don’t know what it is like to fear abduction by a political extremist group who will enlist them as a child soldier exposing them to atrocities beyond conventional war.  They will not know religious persecution and fear that a family member will be taken away in the night by the government, the allegations never disclosed, never to see that person again.  They will not know the loss or suffering of a loved one to a disease or ailment easily prevented by basic medical care unavailable as a result of lack of money, availability or knowledge.  They will grow up never experiencing any of these hardships, and it is for these reasons and so many devastating more that I am thankful to be a citizen of The United States of America.

          As citizens of the United States and the freedoms it allocates, my children instead will grow up knowing a life free from suffering as a result of national circumstance.     They will know the taste of clean, running water and take for granted the feeling of nourishment.  They will know the relief of medical care from the most basic level to the most extreme.  They will take their health care for granted as they have and raise children of their own avoiding the mortality rate related to complications of pregnancy or childbirth.  They will know the fundamentals of education as they attend public school in a society that provides this to all its citizens regardless of gender or race.  And they will know safety and security in their homes and in their communities for themselves as well as their children for generations to come. 

          As this momentous holiday draws near, I think about the suffering of millions of people all across the world and the everyday advantages I take for granted.  The celebration of The Fourth of July to me now reflects a day more than just a summer celebration with my family.  Instead, I now have an appreciation of my county and the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for all the daily privileges I enjoy.  This year on the 4th, while enjoying the firework show, the food and the company, I think I will take a moment to really reflect, recognize and show gratitude for all the peace I have come to enjoy and expect as a part of my life and the life of my family.  Because that is really what the 4th of July is about.

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