You can relax; I’m not going to preach at you a lofty or lengthy sermon about what you should be thinking and how you should be celebrating this Independence Day. I’m not going to tell you that July 4th isn’t about a day off work and an opportunity to enjoy fireworks, pool parties and shopping sales; it is. It can mean much more than that to each of us, though. It took me many years to realize that freedom is one of my highest values. As we’ve reached another July 4th, I’ve been pondering what that freedom means to me, both as an American and in my personal life.
As an American, I appreciate the fact that I can choose how to think, how (and whether) to worship, and that I can travel unimpeded within my own country. Thinking about freedom naturally leads to thinking of its opposite: lack of freedom and even slavery. Though we weren’t slaves to Great Britain, we were certainly controlled and oppressed by them. Thanks to the original Independence Day in 1776, we became a sovereign nation. Our many colonies of courageous people who came to seek freedom in a foreign land finally became the United States of America. I value the efforts of those who came before me and made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms that we now experience.
Personally, this time of year also takes on a significance of a different sort. On July 3, 2007, I underwent a lumpectomy to remove a very aggressive form of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer. I called that day “my independence day,” because it was freedom from the the alien thing living in my body and threatening my life. You can watch a short slideshow project that I did with Fitness Magazine about that journey. I’m happy to say that I have been cancer-free for over 10 years, but I try not to take this freedom for granted.
Every year I want to remember that freedom both comes at a cost and offers opportunities. As an American, I have liberties that I wouldn’t have had if we were still under the control of Great Britain. As a cancer survivor, I have a certain number of days of personal freedom to choose how to spend.
What about you? What does Independence Day mean to you?