April 20–Appreciating Freedom As We Witness Opression

by Marlene Samuels

Several months ago I participated in a thirty-day gratitude challenge initiated on FaceBook by a close friend – not exactly the most original of ideas. Numerous sites had posed similar gratitude challenges at the time. But it did get me thinking about gratitude on a regular daily basis–both the concept and the reality. Every single day, for an entire month, those of us who agreed to sign on took one challenge: “write about something for which you’re grateful today but that’s different from the gratitude you wrote about yesterday.”

Gratitude–so what exactly is that? Within the context of our complex, high stress, western life styles, too many Americans take for granted the most obvious – albeit intangible, gifts of our lives. Yes, it very well may be cliché to say, “I’m grateful for living in a free country,” or “I’m thankful for my health,” especially when, during our conscious hours, we’re bombarded with messages that prioritize material acquisitions.

During my gratitude challenge, writing about a different gratitude each day became progressively more challenging – a total surprise to me. Suddenly, one day mid-challenge, I really got it! I grasped how much we assume our freedom is a basic human right, an entitlement, simply just a part of being alive. Few Americans have grown up without it.

The first week, the posts were overwhelmingly trite and superficial. One participant was grateful that the car dealer had his new car on time, another for an Aruba vacation, a third for having won a bet with his wife. But as the gratitude challenge calendar clicked forward, war and unrest erupted across the Middle East. And during the remainder of our gratitude challenge, it seemed that all our posts evolved – thankfully! Gone were the materialistic pitches. Expressions of gratitude for living in a free country began to dominate the screen. Each post – while different from those posted the prior day as required by the rules – elaborated upon gratitude for freedom. Amazingly, it seemed there was no end to the ways in which we can be grateful for the freedoms we tend to take so much for granted.

I’m an independent sociologist and writer and teach research methodology to non-fiction writers. I’m completing a short story collection, have published essays, short stories and food articles. I’m co-host of www.expendableedibles.com and www.expendableedibles.com/blog. Contact me through my writer’s website, www.marlenesamuels.com.

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One response to “April 20–Appreciating Freedom As We Witness Opression

  1. Marie E. LaConte

    A gratitude journal may seem superficial, because of the predictable responses that emerged as your group began. Sticking to the concept allowed participants to open themselves to the obvious. Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees.

    When I was a youngster in the 1950s, we were taught gratitude– in school and at home– for living in a free country, and I’ve always remembered it. I don’t know whether they teach such a thing now.

    There is no end to the gratitude one should feel for living in freedom (albeit limited freedom) ; however, I, personally, cannot feel gratitude for that without also feeling gratitude for the twelve years I lived in Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia is one of the most restrictive countries in the world, but I experienced a personal freedom there I’ve never felt in the United States.
    That experience forms a large part of my personal writing, but my point here is that in addition to feeling gratitude for freedom, one can also feel gratitude for gifts that can be given only by a milieu in which most Americans would pout.

    I might add that I am also grateful for the freedom to come back to America. Perhaps this freedom facilitated my ability to expatriate myself in the first place.

    The accident of one’s birth location fairly determines how one grows up, and in some cases, whether one grows up at all.

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