Independence and Choosing Freedom

July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

I have been realizing that it’s become very commonplace to call the holiday “July 4th” or “The Fourth”. I use these abbreviated references all the time and enjoy a good July 4th barbecue as much as the next person. But as I think about it, calling it “The Fourth” is a little like calling Christmas “The Twenty-fifth”. They are both casual references to holidays celebrating deeply significant events. So, I am making an effort to more often call the day by the name that commemorates our independence. So, again, happy Independence Day:)

A bit about independence

At this time of the year and particularly on Independence Day, I am so grateful for the independence we experience in this great country. The freedom and blessings of a free nation we enjoy are so vast. I honor the brave men and women who gave so much in sacrifice for our nation and liberties.

Sometimes I wonder where I would have been in 1776 and what I would have been doing. Supporting and deeply thinking about the movement for independence and freedom from British rule? Or thinking of my own comfort and life?

On cold winter days, it is easy to imagine myself hunkered down very close to a fire just trying to get warm. And on hot July days like they experienced without air-conditioning, I can see myself camped in a shady spot refusing to do anything other than fan myself. Perhaps I’m being unfair toward myself since I have done some hard things in my life and try to be involved in life and community in meaningful ways, but still. It is still interesting to think about what part I might have played or not.

Celebrating our freedom

Anyway, back to the Founders and honoring them. I like to think that we can honor them by valuing our collective independence and by living free. One way we can do that is to keep ourselves free from bondage or take steps for getting ourselves out of it. In a money sense, I am referring to how we manage our means or mismanage them to either allow the pursuit of happiness and potential OR hold our present and future hostage.

I spent a long time in bondage (debt), you guys. Because of debt acquired in my late teens and twenties, I perpetually felt like my options for growth were limited. Re-tooling my skill-set and thereby increasing my earning potential were game-changers. [Doing so without a plan increased my debt portfolio which was not awesome, though.] The thing that really changed it all, however, was getting on a budget which helped me change my spending habits. The result? Way more freedom!

Choosing is freedom

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. ~Declaration of Independence

When we hang out in the “stuck” zone, it is our personally equivalent of patiently suffering.  Suffer can also mean ‘to allow’. We allow non-optimal circumstances to persist when we don’t exercise choice to alter or change them. With some exceptions, living financially-strapped or saddled with debt are things that we allow to persist.

If this describes your current situation, the best news is that you can choose to alter your system of personal government. Budgeting your money (and time, but that is a topic for another post) is a choice to change the way you govern one part of your life. And the good news is that it affects so much more than just your pocketbook. It opens options to live fully and give generously.

It’s like a door on a hinge. Yes, here comes another analogy:) When you are in debt or have no margin between income and expenses, the door is just barely cracked open. The sliver of daylight represents your opportunities, which are limited by the stress you are under and the scarcity of your spare means. When, however, you make choices to crack the door open a little bit wider by increasing income or eliminating debt or more wisely managing your money, your potential becomes more than a sliver. Hopefully, eventually, way more than a sliver—it can become a door flung wide open to possibility and contribution.

The people who inspire

On this Independence Day, I wish to honor one person who inspires me to live the above principles. The hours this person has dedicated to upholding liberty and serving others add up to several years. He reads books that are mentally stimulating, if not that interesting for most of us. Books about lichens and mosses and bio-engineering. Often he reads books as he hikes or walks which says a lot about his ability to concentrate on substantial things. He reads philosophers and classic works, like those written by guys like Herodotus and Thucydides. You know, light stuff:) I’ll give you a quarter if you can tell me, without Googling, who those guys were.

He eschews debt, lives well within his means, composes music, sends dozens of thank you cards a year for even small acts of generosity, and always thinks of himself last. He is a tireless worker and will help anyone with anything. This guy is also really fun and adventuresome. In fact, just this weekend he had to get 13 stitches in his lip from a mountain biking accident. No sitting around watching TV and drinking soda for him! If you haven’t guessed it, I am writing about my dad. No, it is not his birthday and Father’s Day was last month. He is just the first person I think of when I think of someone who really cherishes freedom and who has learned to use it for the good of others.

If the Founding Fathers were alive today, I think they would be glad to find some people of my dad’s caliber. They would be glad to see people like him striving to improve their communities, thinking deeply, setting goals, staying free.

Make it count

As you likely enjoy barbecues, the outdoors, and fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, give a thought to how you honor those who initially gave so much for our freedom and those who have fought to preserve it. I’ll do the same.

It’s a holiday which for me provides an opportunity to reflect on the caliber and depth of my life. I want to love substantial reading and living even more and charred hot dogs a little less. It is almost embarrassing how much I like a good “dog.” I want to keep a bigger perspective than just today or this week and my life. I want to make good choices and not squander my freedoms. I want to sacrifice more for the things that matter more. And perhaps one day be remembered, if only by my family, for something more than “she liked to be comfortable.”

Happy Independence Day!

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