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Independence Day – A Celebration of Self Reliance

by Keith McCurdy

So what does the 4th of July mean to you?  The other day my daughter and I were coming down Grandin Road.  While stopped at a red light, I noticed a curious thing in front of us.  There was a young boy, riding his bike.  Tied to the bike with a rope was a little red wagon like we had when we were kids.  In the wagon was a lawn mower, sticking over both sides and tied with a piece of rope.  The light turned green and he took off down Grandin, riding his bike, pulling a wagon, carrying a mower … “Now that is a kid who is going to make some money” I commented to my daughter … that is self-determination and self-reliance.  That is what Independence Day is all about.

It is amazing how things have changed.  It used to be that the way to freedom was the path of self-reliance and determination.  Everyone understood that concept.  Even as late as the early 1900s, it was well understood that hard work and determination was the path in life.  Children were often the main farm hands, used to working from as early as they could remember and school was something that was seen as a privilege and to be pursued to get ahead in life.  What was valued highly was the notion that with our own determination and effort, we could survive and live a free and fruitful life.

In the two World Wars, that notion was the same.  Our effort would pay off.  In the 40’s when the majority of the adult male population was overseas fighting two wars, the women and children kept the country running.  Ever heard of Rosie the Riveter?  These things are the shadows of Independence Day.  The only difficulty is that we see less of that today.

I should not be surprised when I see a boy pulling a mower with his bike.  I should not be surprised by seeing self-reliance in action.  We used to strive for the freedom, to have the opportunity to be self-reliant.  Today we often avoid it.  In this country’s history, whenever we have been faced with war, poverty or intense struggle, our response has been a display of determination and self-reliance like no other.  Remember the folks we call the “Greatest Generation”?

By contrast today, when faced with struggle, poverty or conflict, it all too often leads to dependence.  Phrases like “Give me Liberty or give me death” started getting replaced in culture with “I want my MTV,” We subtly began replacing the value of freedom with the sense of entitlement.   Freedom comes from self-reliance; entitlement is a journey into dependence.  Instead of considering what I can do for myself or others, it has become what others can do for me.

I realize that this article has the flavor of being political, but it truly is not.  It is about family, but there is a connection.  For as the family goes, so goes the country.   Most of our difficulties and solutions in this country are in direct relation to how we raise our children.  When we raise children with a large sense of entitlement, they look for and expect a country to take care of them.  When we raise children with a strong sense of self-reliance, they look for a country to serve … they realize they can take care of themselves.

The most confident children I have ever met are the ones that understand self-reliance.  I rarely deal with a depressed or anxious child that has a strong sense of self-reliance.  I deal with many that think things are unfair in their life.  If we truly want our children to experience freedom, we need to build self-reliance into them.  We need to do less for them and require more of them.  We need to encourage and affirm their achievements and development rather than buy them happiness.  As parents, we all struggle with this balance, but the battle with our current culture is worth it.   We not only need to celebrate Independence Day, we need to celebrate in our children the character and behaviors that led to it.  Hope you all had a great 4th.


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