The Good Life

Jodi and I were talking the other day about making peace with what we have. She’s wanted a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood with more children the age of ours; I would like a bigger vehicle (like a Suburban) and think an Airstream like my sister’s would be great fun. Instead, this winter we’ll shoehorn a fifth child into a three-bedroom, mid-80s split-level and well-used Chrysler minivan…and when we want to camp, we’ll break out the tent.

Have we settled? In some sense, I suppose – but this new baby was a mutual decision and something the entire family wants more than a new house or car. Materially, we are fine with what we have.

Some folks want the best of everything, and in a free country, they are free to pursue it. As for me personally: I want to be left alone, to pursue my own version of happiness. I want a close, loving family; a good community; the freedom to worship God in the way we see fit. I want to hunt and fish when I can, to brew beer and to bake sourdough and to accidentally blow up my garage or make myself sick in the process. And I don’t need anyone to guarantee my medical care. I don’t need state-of-the-art treatment or extraordinary measures – I need a doctor I can trust and the ability to say “when.”

On this Independence Day, it occurs to me how blessed we are. It’s a wonderful thing to live in a country where all of these things are still possible: where Jodi and I can raise a Catholic family; choose a fifth child and not care about the gender; and do what we want with our money, our free time, and our health. It seems as though these things are at risk; that, like General Motors and AIG, our government has become both dysfunctional and “too big to fail” – and that regular folks are rapidly becoming, not the end, but the means. So today, let’s thank God that we live where we do, but recommit ourselves to the safeguarding the freedoms we celebrate – not state-run stability (which seems laughable during the current budget stalemate) but the risk and reward of happiness defined, pursued, and attained by we the people, as we see fit.

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