November 25, 2014

Being Thankful for America’s Roots

My daughters and I are currently studying the history of the mid-18th century, including the fascinating life stories of many involved in the American Revolution. That, coupled with thinking and talking about the ramifications of elections earlier this month, has me pondering the concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us take those blessings for granted. To our shame, most haven’t read beyond the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, let alone the Constitution. And because the events that secured our freedoms occurred almost 250 years ago, it’s easy to dismiss them in the midst of our busy, modern lives. I believe we do so to our great peril. But in light of this week’s Thanksgiving holiday – which marks other significant events in our country’s history – we would do well to pause and consider those blessings more closely.

We have it easy in this country compared to many around the world. We don’t fear being slaughtered because of our religious views, as is happening daily in Iraq and Syria. We needn’t wonder about the availability of the next good meal for our children; even those who struggle financially have safety nets that don’t exist elsewhere. When our kids get sick, we have access to the best medical treatment around. And yet we’re not immune to the realities of living in a fallen world – miscarriage, cancer, car accidents, mental illness – all of which should cause us to appreciate and value life, from conception to natural death. And the fact that we’re able to easily sustain comparatively healthy lives for ourselves and our kids should lead us to grateful humility.

Without periodically reviewing history prior to the founding of the United States, we can’t properly appreciate the freedoms we enjoy here. I didn’t have a good grasp of world history until studying it with my daughters, but as we’ve progressed in our lessons, I’ve been astounded at the extreme levels of tyranny endured by so many in the past. America has certainly not been perfect in its application of liberty for all – and in our ignorance of history, we’re in jeopardy of allowing ourselves to lose it without even realizing what’s happened. But the fact is that “the American experiment” really has been the greatest application of human liberty for all, and we need to remember and appreciate it.

We get confused about this, unconsciously buying into the myth that we’re somehow entitled to happiness. But the promise of the Declaration is freedom to pursue happiness, not a guarantee of its perpetual existence. We can’t always be happy in every circumstance; the realities of life simply preclude it, so demanding it is arrogant and immature. However, we’re free here to chase after our dreams – whatever they are – for ourselves and our kids. When we want to make changes, we have the liberty to do so, and we can find the means through our ingenuity and imagination. That’s simply not reality for most people around the world.

Every year at Thanksgiving I challenge myself – and my children – to think beyond turkey, stuffing, and pie. Our holiday traditions are like the beautiful blossoms on an apple tree, but we need to remember the tree’s unseen, buried roots to fully appreciate the flowers and their burgeoning fruit. This year we’ll be pondering concrete examples of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What about you?

Photo Credit: Betweenland


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