Day Right Quote #62: May We Celebrate our Freedom(s) Today and Everyday

Hard to believe a year ago this July 4th weekend, I was driving through the Smoky Mountains listening to Garrison Keillor’s final show of A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live from the Hollywood Bowl. President Obama called in to give Keillor a well-deserved shout-out for his forty-two years (!) of story-telling that has, as Obama put it, “made us all a little more humane.”

Barack Obama kept trying to focus the conversation on Keillor, Keillor kept turning it back to Obama. Keillor asked, “What are you looking forward to when you’re out of office?”

Obama laughed, “Getting in a car and going for a drive without the Secret Service.”

Exactly. Getting in a car and going where we want, when we want, with whom we want is the epitome of freedom. Yet many of us take it for granted.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out in his Hierarchy of Needs, “Satisfied needs are no longer motivators.”

In other words, once we have food, water, safety, freedom; we tend to overlook them. We don’t miss or appreciate them until they are challenged, until we lose them.

Freedom to is far too precious to take for granted.

This was brought home by an incident that happened years ago during a Christmas holiday vacation in California’s Yosemite Valley.

We were staying at a family lodge that featured snowshoeing and sledding. We lived in Maui at the time, so playing in the snow was a big draw for Tom and Andrew. What we hadn’t counted on was a blizzard that kept us inside. No worries, there was ping pong so we were happy campers.

One night during dinner, the manager confided he was concerned about a couple who were supposed to check in that day but still hadn’t arrived. This was before cell phones so the manager didn’t know if they’d gotten lost or what.

Suddenly, the door blew open and in walked the couple. We gathered round to find out what had happened.

Yes, they’d gotten lost, but here’s the part that made a lasting impression on me ... they hadn't panicked because they were in the United States.

They said they had grown up in Russia. If they wanted to travel internally, they had to give authorities their itinerary. If they didn’t arrive at each checkpoint by a certain time, they came under suspicion and could be interrogated, even arrested. The couple told us they hadn't worried about losing their way to the lodge because they were in America, they had enough food, water and blankets, and they knew they’d be safe until someone rescued them. At least they didn’t have to worry about being tossed in jail.

Their story had an enduring impact on me. I promised to never again take my freedom of movement for granted.

I was reminded of this vow, in an unexpected way, a week after hearing Obama reveal how much he was looking forward to his regained freedom of movement.

I was was navigating some dark steps in a hotel parking lot and took what I thought was the last step, except it wasn't. I fell head-first and crashed into a car, ribs-first.

Ouch! I sat there, stunned in a state of shock. I decided to get up and “walk it off.” That had always been my strategy. If I was playing tennis and twisted my ankle, I found that if I sat down, that injury set in. But if I walked around, my body would somehow, miraculously, heal itself.

So, I walked around until I felt like I was “myself” again. I was okay until the next morning when I couldn’t get out of bed. My whole side ached. Any sudden movement brought a gasp of pain.

I googled my symptoms and self-diagnosed that I had bruised or cracked ribs. (Side note: Yes, I know doctors hate it when we self-diagnose via the internet.)

WEB-MD said that if I did go to the ER, they’d probably take x-rays to see if I was in danger of puncturing a lung, but otherwise they wouldn’t even “tape me up,” as physicians now feel that's an outdated practice that hurts more than it helps. They would, maybe, give me pain meds and advise me to “take it easy” and the ribs would eventually knit on their own.

Hmm. I was flying to Hawaii that day. Perhaps this was naive, but I decided I could "take it easy" in the islands. As long as I sat still or walked without swinging my arms, it didn't hurt too much. It was only when I needed to bend, turn my torso or lift anything (e.g., a carry-on suitcase) that my body quickly reminded me, "DON'T do that!"

I arrived safe (but not so sound) and checked into the beautiful Andaz Resort and Spa, a truly lovely hotel but it is modern which means everything is low. Low beds. Low couches. Low chairs. I remember looking at the bed and wondering how I was ever going to get in it, much less out of it.

I thought, “I know. I’ll go for a walk on the beach path.” I had spent hundreds of happy hours on that path with friends and family when we lived in the area and while I served as Executive Director of the Maui Writers Conference.

Good idea in theory, not so much in practice. Five minutes into my walk, I knew it was a mistake. The narrow, up, down, winding path was crowded with runners, speed walkers and baby strollers, which meant I was dodging someone or something every other minute. Not an option. I headed back to the hotel, feeling like a wimp.

So, what happened? I became a spectator. The next ten days, I sat and looked at the ocean - and didn’t even go in. I watched people swim, scuba, snuba, paddle-board, body-board, kayak and sail - and didn’t get up from my chair.

And you know what I learned? It is a very slippery slope between being a participant in life vs. a spectator. I’ve been active most my life, but here I was sitting on the sidelines watching, not doing.

Thank heaven my ribs healed and I was able to get out of inertia and back in motion. I was once again able to actively appreciate and enjoy my freedom of movement.

How about you? Is freedom a satisfied need? Are you taking it for granted - or using it before you lose it?

Moshe Dayan said, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”

Freedom is more than that. Freedom in all its many forms - freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom to work for a living, freedom to pursue happiness, freedom of movement - is one of the great blessings of our life.

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

This July 4th weekend, may we not just SAY we appreciate our freedom (s), may we get outside and SHOW we understand what a gift it is to go where we please, do what we please, say what we please, when we please, with whom we please.

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Freedom to Drive

On this July 4th weekend, may we be grateful for our freedoms. May we take a moment to really think about all the many things we’re free to do and send up thanks for them. freedom to drive text image

Of the many freedoms we have, my Year by the Water has given me multiple opportunities to revel in one of the most precious; the ability to travel freely, the ability get up and GO … without asking permission, without being regulated, without being told NO.

One of the first times I really became aware of how rare this is, and how many of us take it for granted (and shouldn’t) happened in the middle of a blizzard in the mountains by Yosemite.

We had booked a cabin at a family lodge that had ping pong, group dining, a huge fireplace, board games, and supposedly, snowshoeing and sledding.

Since we lived in Maui at the time, playing in the snow was a big draw for Tom and Andrew, who were about six and eight. What we hadn’t counted on was bad weather that kept us inside most of our time there.

One night, we were gathered in the main lodge and the front desk manager was really worried. A couple who were supposed to check in that afternoon still hadn’t arrived, and it was getting late. The manager was concerned their car might have gone off the narrow, windy road or gotten stuck.

Finally, with a gust of wind, the door opened and the couple walked in, much to everyone's relief.

I was standing by the desk while they explained they had gotten lost. But, and here’s the part that made a lasting impression on me, they didn’t panic because they were in America! They were originally from RUSSIA.

In Russia, if they wanted to make a long trip, they’d have to give their itinerary to the authorities. If they didn’t made a checkpoint at a certain time, they would come under suspicion, perhaps even be arrested. Here in America, they didn’t fear something bad would happen to them simply because they'd become lost. They felt safe.


That memory floated back to me yesterday while driving through the glorious Smoky Mountains during Golden Hour … and listening to the final show of A Prairie Home Companion.

President Obama called in to give Garrison Keillor a well-deserved shout-out for his 42 years of story-telling that’s “made us all a little more humane.”

When asked what he was looking forward to when he’s out of office, Obama talked longingly of getting in a car without the Secret Service and GOING FOR A DRIVE on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.


See, going for a drive is a “satisfied need.” Abraham Maslow said that once a need is satisfied – whether it’s a survival need like having food, water and shelter – or a community need like family and friends – it is no longer a motivator. We tend to overlook it, take it for granted. We don't miss it until we no longer have it.

The freedom to get in a car and just take off - anytime, anywhere, with anyone - is something we usually don’t even think about. In fact, if we think about it at all, it’s usually to complain about the traffic, the weather, or “Are we there yet?”

This weekend, if you get in a car to head to the beach, the mountains, a community or national park to celebrate with family and friends, instead of thinking how hot it is or complaining how long it takes to get where you want to go - could you instead look around and MARVEL at what it really means to have the freedom, independence and luxury to drive where you want, when you want?

As I travel this great country of ours, I am amazed and impressed with its beauty, its variety, its abundance.

Our freedoms do not deserve to be taken for granted. They deserve our attention, respect and appreciation. Happy 4th of July weekend.