The Fourth of July holiday has come and gone, but I'm still thinking about it. Why? For many, the holiday includes celebrations of the red, white and blue, family picnics, barbecues and fireworks. But this year, it brought me a deeper appreciation for a concept dating back to the very first Fourth of July - independence.
For me, it was not a day of spending quality time with family around a barbecue pit, with smells of roasting meat and sweet angel food cake floating through the air. My independence meant I could sleep until noon, watch the History Channel highlight the Revolution, bake homemade granola in the oven, take a high-powered stroll through Rec Park and travel to see some fireworks.
I am grateful for my independence, and I used Saturday to exercise it. I was reminded that July 4th, Thanksgiving and all the other holidays we celebrate are not the only days of the year that we should recall the things for which we should be thankful.
I am thankful that my independence means I have a job, I am able to live by myself, and I have food, clothing and shelter I can afford. I am alive yet another day, and I can freely express my thoughts, feelings and opinions.
I can spend my days doing what I please, and I can do this all alone if that is my desire. I also am thankful that I can wear pants or a skirt above my knee, if I so choose, and I do not have to wear garments that completely cover me from head to foot, as the women of some other nations must do whenever they venture outside of the house.
Throughout much of American history, women were not allowed many of these rights, yet we often take them for granted.
Some of these are still a struggle for my gender in the U.S., but millions of men and women around the world do not even have the basic rights I get to enjoy every day. There is a lot for which I have to be thankful.
How different would our nation be if we did not win our independence from England, if the South had won the War Between the States, or if we had ended up on the losing side of the many other conflicts our nation has fought? You sure wouldn't be reading my column today if the freedom of speech had never been granted to U.S. citizens, nor if thousands of men and women had not been willing to risk everything they held dear in order to protect that freedom.
Because of our independence, we get to enjoy a level of personal freedom that countless others can only dream about. It is a thing for which we should be thankful each and every day.
Bethany Fehlinger is The Sentinel's city editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.