Back in spring I had the opportunity to sit down at a gathering with a few friends and numerous strangers. Well, they were strangers to me because it was the first time I had met many of them. It was an eclectic group, most certainly.
Early in the evening and before we proceeded with the formal dinner a question was posed regarding freedom and what it meant to be free. This was the time where each of us would have the opportunity to wax philosophically and share our great wisdom with each other. There was a lot of head nodding and “mmm hmming” as each person shared around the table. I always get a tad bit uncomfortable with this kind of thing because I feel like each person is expected to share something earth shattering. At this point I would normally seize an opportunity to go play with three-year-olds or elementary aged children since I typically find I have a closer maturity level to them than adults. However, I had been seated right in the midst of a long row of people so my escape plan had been thwarted.
The loop of discussion came my way and I honestly had to say that I really had no idea what it meant to be free. I’m a fairly spoiled American, having had the opportunity to make whatever choices I’ve wanted in my life without much repercussion. As I long as I stay within the law, I’m able to do whatever I choose.
Some years ago when I resided in Romania my best friend at the time, Roni, asked a bit of a different but similar question of me. “What would you do if American closed its borders and you were not able to go back there? If, all of a sudden, something changed in the world where you were no longer welcome back in your country?”
It was hard for me to fathom what I might do. I’ve never not had my freedom. It’s never been taken away from me. The closest I’ve come to understanding lost freedom is hearing what life was like for my Romanian friends that had lived under communism.
An amazing woman by the name of Ema was our language teacher for the first year we lived in Arad, Romania. She was a fantastic teacher and while younger than us, remembered life during communist times. As a child living under the communist regime Ema asked a relative one day what it would be like to live as free people without a communist government. The little girl was given this reply “If there were no more communism, no more bread lines, no more oppression, it would be like being able to eat bananas every day!” For little Ema a piece of fruit like an exotic banana was a rare treat; how great would life be if she were to have a banana whenever she wanted one?
That story has always stuck with me. I take bananas for granted! In my world, I take my freedom for granted. I’m always amazed by the fact of how I got to be an American. While we all have many choices in our lives, none of us ever got to choose our nationality at birth. How was I so fortunate as to have this abundant freedom? A freedom so rich and so vast that I can’t even really comprehend it? I guess in the end I could go whacky trying to figure it all out. Or I could think about it each time I pick up a banana, which is just about every day of my life.
Happy Independence Day everybody! Do something crazy on the 4th, have a banana split!