The fourth of July brings together families and friends; cooks up mounds of great food; and finishes with a bang at the end. Freedom, for some, is more than a yearly celebration. Freedom is the right to live with dignity, love, and have a safe place to call home.
I salute the thinkers all those years ago that figured out how to put together a constitution that, for the most part, still holds up today. I salute the men and women - including members of my family - who have served to fight and keep the right to freedom. I salute the nations that choose the right to freedom for their people.
Yet, in each culture, we know that violence strikes too many families at its core. Some of the biggest wars are at home. Children are left to bear witness to horrendous acts, and people are beaten verbally and physically in the name of love. This is the beginning of a new decade for my family. For the first time in almost a decade, we are free from violence. We are surrounded by a loving family and respectful community.
I look back at myself and wonder how I got to be on the end of "victim." How did that happen? I see the mistakes I made, and the lies I told myself that one day, things would get better. After violence marched into my home around the birth of my special needs son, I did take steps to end it. The pattern of violence has a sneaky way of hanging around. When I thought I moved forward, years later another round of attacks would begin. Once divorced, it was a horrible, twisted circus of battles to protect my children and myself. In the end, we won. We work each to not only start over but to soar ahead in our new lives.
I had a dream, a decade ago, to live free from the wrath of domestic violence. I knew we'd get here, though not always sure how. If I could be the person now I was then, sure, I'd be stronger. But how do we get stronger? We learn by mistakes, we get courage from acting even when we'd rather give up. Courage comes when we decide to never give up. Never, never, ever give up.
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