This post was written by a recent home-school graduate who attends our church. This young man is a great conversationalist, fun to be around (his joy is contagious), encouraging, intelligent, articulate, and passionate about what he believes. I am pleased to introduce you to Wesley Myers.
The day seemed like any other. The cold temperatures outside were reminders that winter was still haunting our otherwise normal lives. School seemed to dominate the majority of my time, and day-to-day activities seemed as monotonous as breathing itself. The notion that my perception of mankind was about to change never even crossed my mind, and if it had been mentioned, it probably would have made me laugh.
It came during lunch, when the radio was on. As was the tradition in our household, we listened to the political talk show host Rush Limbaugh on the radio while we ate. His appreciation for the truth and its lack of placement in our society, combined with his constant string of satirical comments, made an interesting daily subject of discussion. But while I sat there enjoying my peanut butter sandwich, the popular radio host moved to the matter of international happenings, most of which, at that time, was dominated by the current war in Iraq. And then the revelation began.
He started speaking of the very first free election being held in Iraq. And as I listened, I was introduced to the idea of gratefulness for the very things that we have seemed to take for granted. Masses of people in Iraq were streaming to the cities to vote, crowding the booths for the opportunity to have their voice heard for the first time in their national history. Stories of people who gladly inconvenienced themselves for this rare chance flooded the news, further stunning my young, impressionable mind. Stories of people who would walk miles from their villages with incapable people on their backs to vote with them, or of elderly people who hobbled to the closest polling booth just to cast a single vote. A single vote that apparently meant everything to them. Then I wondered to myself, what was it that compelled these people so much to make a seemingly small difference? And why don’t we have the same reaction to this opportunity? That’s when I saw the error with my viewpoint. When you don’t have something, it becomes more valuable.
There was a reason that the United States was started as a democracy. There was no freedom under the rule of Britain. America’s intention was to be liberated from the rule of oppressive government. The belief was held that if the people were the government, and the people chose the direction of the government, liberty was held intact. This belief and practice has been held for the entire life of this country, and has shaped who we are as a whole. Recently, however, we have started to develop a sense of complacency. Liberties that once were so important to us have been taken for granted. Just take a look at the voter turnout over the years – a downward trend has been going on for more than sixty years (1).
Now compare that to a new democracy – Iraq. In only their first election ever, a third-world country lacking many of the conveniences we posses surpassed the world’s most powerful and free country in voting turnout percentage (2). Which leads us to the big question: why did this happen? Many answers can be formulated, but if we were to condense all the possible answers into one word, that word would be “gratefulness”.
We have taken too many things for granted. It is said that if we have money in our wallet, then we are richer than ninety percent of the world. If you have food, extra clothes, and a roof over your head, then you are more fortunate than seventy-five percent of the world. And here we are attending church together – something that three billion other people are unable to do. These are all things that we all too often take for granted. Freedom is a wonderful thing. But if we begin to ignore all it has done for us, then we begin to lose our sense of value for what really matters.
Freedom shows itself in many forms: freedom of religion; freedom to bear arms; freedom to own your own business; freedom of choice; and most of all, freedom of speech. Now imagine a life devoid of these freedoms. Life would be oppressed by the power hungry, and any grab for success would be met with control by those who have put themselves in power by no choice or say of the people. Life would be a monotonous existence, and, while we would hope for bright times in our children’s future, we would all know that the cycle of oppression would only continue.
So how can we avoid this all-too-possible future? The answer comes back to the reason why a third-world country had a higher voter turnout than our own – gratefulness. When you look at their past you may see a reason for their gratefulness: they are a people inundated with terrorists on every side, living in a country ravaged by war, all led by a man corrupted with power. So when they were given a chance to change the outlook for their country, it became a gift for all to have a piece. As with all countries, they may not have agreed with all that the candidates stood for, but they immediately looked past the differences to take advantage of the opportunity to change their country’s current path to destruction.
So the question remains: what is our excuse? Is it lack of time? Or money? Or maybe the polling booth is too far away? None of these excuses are valid in today’s advanced society that we have in our free country.
Even though this concept was never explained to me before, it immediately left a huge impact on my life and perception of everything around me. It became a lesson I will never forget. May we never forget the privileges bestowed upon us by the freedom of our country. Treasure them, and keep them responsibly, by taking advantage of them while we can. Because it is only when those privileges are gone that we realize how much they were originally worth, and how much was missed by ignoring them.
Side note: Wesley is the 6th of 8 children of Mike and Becky Myers. You might remember Mike from the recent post Too Small For His Britches.