Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day! (long)

It is the 4th of July, Independence Day! I am finally out of the kitchen for 2 minutes anyway. I have chosen to take rolls, cookies, and a Yankee Doodle Popcorn Cake from the cookbook I reviewed a few posts ago, to the July 4th dinner/celebration/fireworks fiesta tonight. Because of those choices, I still have not showered and I got dressed only after my third child heckled me about still being in jammies. "Well, make time, Mom!" I think I've heard those words before . . . out of my own mouth, generally because someone has not gotten dressed and it's noon.

My husband also took the opportunity of a day off work to repair our electrical line so we now have a working light in the front entry, the front room lamps work, and the yard and front porch lights work as well. It's amazing what happens when some houses in the area get robbed! Of course, last night we left the shed door wide open!

Sometimes, though, I think we don't think enough about what freedom means. I remember some months ago reading an article about how the French people were about fed up with Americans and their seemingly better-than-you attitude. That saddened me a great deal. I hope it isn't really true.

Before anyone thinks I'm not a true-blue, dyed in the wool American, let me explain further. I believe we live in the greatest country on earth, but I do not believe that gives us bragging rights. (For the record, I think every single person should be able to believe that no matter what country they live in. It's sad when they don't feel that is true.) What I believe that gives us is the greatest responsibility to be examples.

Too many times when people talk about our responsibilities, they talk about our responsibility to vote. While that is one thing, there are others. Maybe those other responsibilities are more important because those others can affect our voting choices.

I believe one of our overriding responsibilities is to be a good citizen. That includes acting in a way that is conducive to our own and others' betterment. That does not mean I am responsible for another's choices, but only that my choices should not determine theirs. That might mean that I keep my dog contained in our house and yard so he doesn't become a nuisance to another. That means doing simple things like finding a garbage can instead of just setting my cup of soda on the pavement before driving away.

That means looking at the long-term results of choices I make now. For example, if I buy a car on credit, I agree to live up to that obligation and make my payments on time. We have friends that routinely repossess cars because many people do not have that value. Interestingly, some of those people also have warrants out for their arrest so they will team up with the police. They find the person, notify the police, let the police get in first and arrest the people while they swoop in for the car.

Many of these people blame the repossessor and say it is the repossessor's fault that they lost the car or maybe the financier's fault, or some other entity's fault, but they don't admit their own blame. The blame should be on their own shoulders. Most of these vehicles are not purchased at a "regular" new/used dealership. They are bought at the buy here/pay here places. Those dealers are perfectly legitimate, and they offer an opportunity for people with lousy credit to purchase a car on credit. For the serious minded, it is an opportunity to rebuild their credit rating, but they have to be careful to only buy what they need and what they can afford. If they are having a hard time holding a job, maybe they need to check out the bus service for awhile.

Likewise, there are life decisions each one of us must make. Some make wise decisions, some make foolish. Maybe most of us do both with hopefully more wise ones than otherwise. :-)

As a homeschooler, I am constantly aware of future ramifications of our choices. Almost everything we involve our children in doing is evaluated for the value to them in their personal (and sometimes professional) development. I think that is common for parents across the board, not just homeschoolers. I believe that all thinking, caring parents want our children to be successful.

Therefore, I was intrigued by this post and the one she referenced. I, too, think that not all people should go to college. In fact, this world would be poorer if everyone did; I loved her example of her air conditioning repairman. He made a choice, and we are better for all those who make a "different" choice.

The original post made the point that high school diplomas don't mean much today. In a world where everyone has a college degree, that degree will hold less meaning too. As I waited for an electrician to have time to fix some things damaged by an ice storm, I wished there were more electricians, not more college graduates!

Last week, my husband, daughter and I went to lunch in time to hear the "Unity" speeches by Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. One of Hilary's comments absolutely chilled me. She said something to this effect, "No woman should have to hold onto a dead-end job just to keep insurance."

Folks, to my knowledge there is nothing and nobody chaining any woman to a dead end job for insurance benefits except herself. You got it in one. Only that woman had the ability to tie herself down to an unrewarding career. We live in a country of unlimited opportunities. You don't have to have money to make something of yourself. But here is the caveat: Each individual has the responsibility to make something of themselves.

There are women who work for benefits only. That is true. They want the benefits and work so they can have them for a lesser cost than having to buy insurance individually. It's the dead-end part I take issue with. If they are in a "dead-end" job, that is by their decision. Perhaps circumstances forced the issue causing them to work---maybe they are widowed or divorced from an unfaithful husband. Maybe their husband does not make enough (another decision made earlier in their lives perhaps). The cause may not be in their control, but what they do from that point is totally in their control. Any woman today who does not prepare for possibilities is ignoring current events. Perhaps a woman will initially take a "dead-end" job but only as a means to an end---and that end is not to retire there.

That, I believe, is the beauty of the American system. There is great potential for those who will actively take control of their lives and make the decisions they must to reach the potential they desire. But for that power to be real, they must have the potential to fail! If I had decided to take a job as a janitor after I graduated from high school and ignore chances to further my education in whatever venue I chose (technical and university in my case), I would have worked as a janitor for the rest of my life. Some people do that and have full lives, at least less stressful lives. I did that for a time in order to fund the rest of my education. (I'm using the word education purposely here because some technical education costs more than a university education.)

If I knew I would be taken care of no matter what I chose, would I have been concerned with the long view? Totally hypothetical because that wasn't the case. I knew I did not want to depend on my parents for my support or anyone else either.

Others take a longer road, and they fail. The successful people eventually succeed because they don't like failure, and they take responsibility for it when it occurs.

So what Hilary was saying as I understand it, is that she wants to take away the possibility of failure. I don't think she realizes that she has been successful in many of her pursuits because she has the possibility of failing.

There is a scripture that says, "For it must needs be, that there is an aopposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."

What I am trying to say, and what I believe this scripture says, is that we cannot become the people we need to be if we have the right to fail removed. They are two sides of the same coin. We are not victims; how we respond to events is entirely up to us. If we choose to further our education in whatever venue, that is our choice and we will benefit by it. If we do not, we will also receive the consequences.

It's the same with children. If I tell my son that he has to finish certain tasks before he can go to taekwondo but then allow him to go anyway, I haven't taught him anything worthwhile. If he isn't ready to test for his next belt because he didn't "get" to go to enough sessions, that's okay. Disappointing, but that disappointment might help him make sure his assignments are completed next time.

And it's the same for us. Each of us.

P.S. A good post here--not long!

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