Monday, January 7, 2013
Never doubt that many people have died to preserve our freedom; the laying down of one's life so that others can sup from the horn of freedom is the highest sacrifice. And it should go without saying that nothing in life is free. Sacrifice or payment, in one form or another, is required to get anything. That reminds me of a story.
Once upon a time, four friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a once a month poker party. We agreed that for the first month, all of us would put twenty bucks into our "fund." Also, we agreed that a small percentage of every winning pot would go into the fund to help defray the cost of our refreshments. That pot percentage allowed us to drop our monthly "dues" to ten dollars. We had more that just snacks and good beer; a few times we were able to grill choice-cut steaks. We were living large. But nothing that good seems to last. Something always comes along to muck it up.
During one of our poker parties, one of our number mentioned about a guy who was down on his luck. To protect the guilty, I will call him Joe. After hearing what a rotten life Joe had, we decided to invite Joe to be our guest for one poker party. We felt really good about our decision.
That night came and Joe certainly enjoyed himself. He ate and drank excessively, won a few pots, and when the night ended, Joe gleefully tossed two bucks into the fund. After he left, we congratulated ourselves for showing Joe a good time; a brief respite in what appeared to be a life full of emptiness and failure. Before we parted company for the evening, we remarked about how much cash we had in the fund. And, the reminder of where our next venue would be, something that was brought up while playing cards.
Our next poker party night seemed to arrive rather quickly. But, the night was not what we had expected; Joe invited himself to our party. Surprised, but not to appear that we lacked hospitality, we allowed him to join us. Again, Joe ate and drank excessively, but only won one pot. When we reminded him of the pot percentage, he argued that he had only won once and that we had won more. Since the percentage was well under $2.00, we shrugged it off and let him keep it. Before the night was over, we told Joe that if he wanted to be a part of our poker group, he had to pony up the ten bucks for the monthly "dues," and had to rigidly adhere to the pot percentage, regardless of the number of pots he won; he agreed.
The following month's poker party arrived and so did Joe, minus his ten bucks. We allowed him to pay his dues out of any winnings he had, that night. That night, Joe won three pots and paid off his dues debt but became a bit testy when we reminded him of the pot percentage (remember, the pot percentage was a big factor in aiding our refreshment fund). He told us that he needed the money for gasoline; we let him slide, again. Later, two of our original number confessed that they had allowed Joe to win two of his three pots. One held a full house and took himself out of the round; Joe won. Soon after, the another had a flush and did the same; Joe was jubilant. They said that they intentionally lost so that Joe could pay his ten bucks and maybe feel good about himself. This is the point in the story where everything really went downhill.
Over the next several months, Joe always showed up without his ten bucks. And, he never contributed to the refreshment fund. His belligerent whining and complaining became so great that we even let him slide on the ten bucks; we had created a freeloader. Joe had reached a point where he thought that we 'owed' all those slides to him - because we were a tad better off than he was. But, "that tad better off " varied just by degrees between us and Joe. The bottom line: the refreshment fund was almost depleted. The original five of us reviewed our options and decided to end it; it was no longer fun. After reading this, I know that you are wondering what the hell the story has to do with freedom. I believe that it has a lot to do with freedom.
How free can a man be, to pursue success, happiness, or even failure if he is completely dependent? So dependent in fact, that the feeling is.........everything is "owed" to him, as an entitlement, while never paying in his fair share. I believe that this kind of dependency is a roadblock to freedom. Now, there are some folks in the United States who think that the American Dream is dead; I think not. The underlying principal of the American Dream is Freedom. It is the Freedom to pursue your dreams, to taste the bitter sweetness of failure, and to drink from the horn of success. Looking for a hand up is one thing but expecting to be carried all the way is a horse of a different color. Our words and actions shape our lives, and how we handle life's cross currents, obstacles, defines us as individuals. The last words: freedom of any sort is never free - be careful of what you ask for.
Copyright @2013 Terry Unger
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