Here and Now
Sometimes it feels like every minute of hour of every day is a battle for independence at my house. The kids fight for later bedtimes, more electronics time, sugary snacks, and just plain old freedom to do what they want to do. I seek independent bathroom, yoga, and breathing time; and maybe some independent chocolate-eating time that doesn’t happen hurriedly in a closet or after 8:00 p.m.
This certainly isn’t the independence we celebrate on the 4th of July, but it does make me consider how, on this roller coaster that is a life with kids, I lose sight of the big picture—the amazing life, time, and country in which I live. While almost all of us will concede that we are ever-evolving and still have much room to improve, a quick reflection highlights just a few of the many reasons I am grateful and proud to live in the United States of America in 2015:
I have access to running water and sanitation at home. There’s no walking for miles with buckets of sometimes dirty water; just turn the knob and voila, clean, life-sustaining water. I go to the store and buy groceries—from necessities to indulgences. Once in my home, the miraculous refrigerator keeps food cold, frozen, and safe. Preparing meals is quick and easy, since the oven and microwave both stand at the ready. Oh, and that’s made possible by the electricity that runs through the house offering light, music, TV and all sorts of other utilities and addictions, er, I mean entertainment.
My family has a roof over our heads; clothes in our closets; and beds, covered with cozy blankets no less, to sleep on. Heat or AC blasts to offer perfect conditions 24-hours a day. I can zoom off in my car to wherever I want to go. Today it took me to the doctor’s office, just 15 minutes away, where my son quickly received medical care and a prescription. Our knowledgeable doctor and nurses and access to diagnostic tests, antibiotics, and pain relievers are making his bout with strep tolerable and quick. We didn’t walk for half the day to wait in line for a life-saving immunization or treatment, only to make the same trek back, feeling sick and weak without the promise of a bed to rest in, nor a temperature-controlling device to provide comfort.
My children and I are all going to bed tonight where we feel safe. I don’t fear drive-by shootings, bombings, or being pillaged. Should an emergency occur, we are protected by local police, firefighters, and EMT, who are trained and prepared to come to our aid with just a call for help.
Yes, that brings me to the phone. Everywhere I go, I have my phone—a blessing, and a curse at times; but the safety and convenience of being able to communicate whenever or wherever, is astonishing and reassuring. Beyond that, my “smart” phone offers entertainment and information. From directions and reviews of products and restaurants, to advice, music, videos, news, weather, shopping, and of course, up-to-the-minute recounts of all my friends’ daily activities, the world is at my fingertips.
My children have access, and are actually required, to attend school. Teachers and administrators dedicate themselves to giving American children a solid foundation. And, yes, there’s an array of school quality in this country, but my children are not working in a factory or begging in the streets. They have a genuine opportunity to learn and have a childhood.
Beyond the modern conveniences that are my norm, I am grateful for the strides in equality, compassion, and understanding that have been made in recent weeks. Hate was answered with love and awe-inspiring forgiveness. Rather than lashing out or focusing on differences, we joined in unity to demonstrate that all lives matter. A symbol of oppression and racism is finally finding its way to the museum—the only place it belongs. And our Supreme Court, the branch of the government that was intended to maintain the integrity of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, did so by ruling that states must allow same-sex couples to marry and recognize their unions. Yet, those who disagree with that ruling or anything else that occurs in the world, still have the freedom to express their opinions and peacefully make their arguments without censorship.
These freedoms—and let’s be honest, luxuries—are defended with pride by a strong and skillful military of men and women who put their lives on the line to maintain our quality of life and independence. They spend months at a time, sometimes years, away from their homes and families to protect us and help others around the world. They answer the call to go to war, to battle, while I am here enjoying the safety which they provide.
I recognize that some of these blessings may not be the reality of every American. I acknowledge that there are obstacles within our government and society that need to be addressed and will require years of compromise and working together. We are nowhere near perfect; but, look how far as a nation we’ve come since the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Consider how many core values set forth by our Founding Fathers have been upheld and revered, and just as importantly those that have evolved.
Yes, being an American in 2015 is worth celebrating. As we delight in the company of family and friends this weekend at barbecues, picnics, and parties; as we ooh and ahh over firework displays and parades; as we eat chocolate and other yummy treats in broad daylight, let’s also be mindful of and grateful for the liberties, the privileges, the conveniences that are ours simply because of where we live and when we were born.
Wishing you a happy and safe 4th of July!