July 4th – What does Independence Mean to You?

Have you ever played the “interesting fact” game at a cocktail party or perhaps in a forced group setting? Ok, I’m not quite sure what it’s called…but basically you go around the room and everyone has to tell the group an interesting fact about themselves that no one would be able to guess about them.
This tends to invoke some serious nail-biting anxiety for a lot of folks, but truthfully this is one of my favorite topics of conversation. Over my lifetime I’ve heard some of the most amazing facts about people that I would have NEVER known.
I’ve been in a group with a woman who was born in the back seat of a New York City taxi cab, a man who was a golden glove boxer in his 20s, a soldier who lost his leg in Iraq (he lifted his pant leg to reveal his artificial limb and everyone’s jaw hit the floor – we had zero idea- btw technology is incredible), a woman who had 6 children under the age of 18 at home, a man who was a nurse at a psychiatric trauma unit for adolescents who used to be in a biker gang. If you’ve never played this do it at your next office party – the unique stories of all of our lives are quite amazing. [bctt tweet=”the unique stories of all of our lives are quite amazing” username=”woodybrown”].
Interesting Fact: I spent a large part of my childhood living overseas, primarily in Indonesia. My father’s job took us there and it was truly an amazing experience. It opened my eyes and sparked my interest into different cultures, religions, culinary exploration, biology, travel and music.

My younger brother and I riding elephants in Indonesia (younger brother on left having the time of his life)

The Indonesian people are beautiful. If I close my eyes tightly I can see their gorgeous smiles, I can hear the busy traffic and horns honking at all times of day, I can smell the Durian and the diesel fuel in the air. I can see the early morning mist on the rice paddies and if I squint and focus hard enough I can see the silhouettes of the farmers who have already been working for hours. I can hear the prayer call from the mosques in the evening that echoed through my neighborhood – my mom used that as our alarm clock to remind us to head home for dinner when we were out playing with our friends. (I often thought she must have talked to the mosques when we moved there JUST to make us come home earlier than our friends…haha). I went to an international school with other children from every corner of the globe, meeting some of the most amazing friends who have gone on to become incredible adults with innovative and world changing businesses.
As I grew older I also came to understand the harsh reality of just how different the world was. I’ll never forget when The Karate Kid debuted on, at that time, Indonesia’s ONE television channel that showed “American” TV shows and Movies. As we were riding back from school you could see children running down the dirt streets in their bare feet huddled around a tiny television screen, some of the littlest ones on the shoulders of their older siblings…just to see this old (to me) movie. Through my time there I began to realize the gravity of what I had in comparison to the many who didn’t. Yet still, I remember their smiles. I learned the term “third world country” and it impacted me drastically. My innocent child eyes were opened. I witnessed the vast difference between governments in real time, up close and in real life. I have seen what happens to people if they want to be their “truth”, I have seen what happens to people if they disagree with a politician or leader.
So, every year on the 4th of July I have a lot of things that I reflect upon.

    Even in 2017 to be independent – to have the power of choice, opinion, individuality, freedom without true consequence is still rare. This is mind-blowing to me. Is our country perfect? NO WAY. But, together we can make it better every single day.
    Whatever you want to call it: we Americans are extremely lucky to be here. If you’ve never seen what a third world country child or family in need looks like with your own eyes in person, and are rolling your eyes are jotting a list of excuses that disagree with being lucky, blessed or fortunate…then at the very least please google the data. This isn’t opinion.
    Our freedom isn’t limited to just what we want to wear daily or what religion we want to pursue or even who we want to love. We have the freedom to CHOOSE who and what we want to be. We have this incredible opportunity to make things happen.  It’s our choice.
    My heart is filled with gratitude. Thankful for the men, women and their spouses that sacrifice EVERYTHING for our freedoms daily. The individuals that serve and protect us and may or may not ever get any recognition and certainly won’t get enough/recognition that they truly deserve. I’m grateful for the chance to have opportunity to support my family and to give back. To give back to my own community and to the world. To help in any way that I can.

What Independence means to me is the chance to change the world. The freedom to make those choices on a daily basis. I don’t take these things for granted and my hope is that you won’t and don’t either. Remember when you’re watching the beautiful fireworks this week the words of our National Anthem. Remember what it really means to have the CHOICE to live the American Dream and to give back to those who may need a little help to live that same dream.

Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July. – Woody Brown

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