For many years I have been an active volunteer for 4th of July activities in our small town; helping to organize the parade, entertainment, vendors in the park, fireworks, etc. I’m often so involved with the events of the day that I lose site of the significance of what we are celebrating- A VERY UNIQUE FREEDOM.

It has been estimated that fewer than 5% of the 110 billion people who have ever lived on this earth experience anything that even resembles the freedom we as Americans enjoy today.

I’m grateful for the wisdom and courage our forefathers had to identify and fight for a incredibly unique system of government, as Abraham Lincoln famously said, of the people, by the people, for the people.

I see a direct connection between personal responsibility and freedom.

It seems to me that at the heart of this unique system of government, and central to our individual liberty, is the basic assumption that we as individuals should take care of ourselves rather than being taken care of by society.

Ideally we would all take care of ourselves. We would all get an education and learn skills and either work for, or start, a business. We would both develop and value a sense of personal responsibility.

We are all individuals, and all of our actions are individual actions, but we are not alone; as individuals we are members of families, organizations, businesses, churches and communities.

In a free society there is no overlord whose purpose is to take care of the individuals but we, as individuals, recognize that people, in their efforts to be independent, sometimes suffer setbacks, and sometimes these setbacks are personally devastating. It’s these set-backs suffered by others that allow us individually and as members of organizations, groups and communities to realize our desire to contribute and bestow. I believe we all want to have that sense of contribution and connection that comes from voluntarily helping others. In fact I believe it’s a necessary part of our human and spiritual development.

I also believe that our forefathers recognized that one of the great benefits of having personal liberty and taking personal responsibility is the personal satisfaction that comes from being able to voluntarily help others in our communities.

I feel blessed and I’m thankful to live at this place and time. I appreciate being one of the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before me. I also have concerns about the unintended consequences of the many well-intentioned, but perhaps misguided, programs currently in place in this great country. Consequences like reducing personal liberty, the abdication of personal responsibility and even weakening the fabric of our local communities.

This Independence Day I celebrate the commitment, the values, the principles and the wisdom of our forefathers and I pray that in our desire to do good, that we do well.