It is the time of year when we as Americans gather together with friends and family to eat, swim, and set off or watch fireworks as a way to celebrate the anniversary of our freedom. While laying in the pool today, relaxing in the sun, I began to think about the freedoms I enjoy. I began to think about the places I've been in this world that do not enjoy those same freedoms but enjoy a different kind of freedom. A few years back I had the opportunity to spend some time in West Africa to teach English and study culture. The people there are very poor, the poverty line is $1.25 a day. My first week there, I was overwhelmed by the people there. They were so friendly and happy. Some of these children were running around naked (this is the Sahara desert) and just seemed content and happy just the same. They did not have the things the children in the United States expect to have. They didn't have electricity so there was no tv, no gaming systems, and no internet. One of my favorite memories is a child came to my gate and asked me to come out to play with him. I looked at him and all he had was a bicycle tire and I thought, ok, this could be interesting. I went out to play with him and for at least an hour we rolled this tire along the road and laughed and laughed and laughed. But when we think of these children, we may think, how sad that they do not all have clothing and they do not have electricity so they can enjoy this or that...they are just trapped in the middle of the Sahara desert playing with bicycle tires. But nothing could be further from the truth. When I think of these children, I reminded that freedom is a state of mind. These children were free because they were not trapped by the thoughts many have by comparing themselves to other people. These childre were free because they did not have to rely on outside influences to know they were free. They are free because they believe in their mind that they are free. We are surrounded by influences and stimuli that can lead us to believe we have to do this or have to have that and have to believe this or have to behave in this way. But the fact of the matter is, the only thing we have to do, is free ourselves in our minds. I know, I know, easier said than done. But honestly, if I have a thought sneak in that could trap me, I try to capture that thought and challenge it. After that challenge, I have a choice. I can choose to live in that sneaky negative, worry inducing thought, OR I can choose to let it go and live in a state of happiness and FREEDOM!! I hope that you will choose your freedom and realize that you have the power within yourself and should celebrate each piece of freedom you gain in your life!!