As Iím sitting here in the peace and relative quietude of my house, decompressing from the long weekend, Iím reflecting on my July 4th holiday. (Yes, for the record, I can still process thoughts clearly after all that sun and booze, thank you very much.) Iím thinking about all the different ways that people everywhere celebrated the day and how Independence Day means so many different things to so many different people.

For so many, itís a day when we get to drape ourselves in red, white, and blue and take extra amounts of pride in the fact that we live in a place where we can come and go and think and speak as we please. For others, itís a day when we wish ourselves a happy anniversary or honor the kind and selfless souls who protect our freedom for us. For some itís a day off from work or itís tons of charcoal and lighter fluid and patriotic beer koozies or itís fireworks and buckets of Sweet Baby Rayís.

But mostly, itís about being free. Because without that freedom, we just wouldnít have all those other things. We just wouldnít.

Iím talking about the freedom we have day in and day out to live our life the way we choose to live it. About how we get to decide our own career path and our own relationships and where we work and how we play.

What Iím not talking about is the kind of freedom we have to choose a grapefruit shandy versus lemon or a hot dog over a hamburger or whether to wear eyeglasses just as a fashion accessory even when we have 20/20 vision. Even though most of us enjoy those kinds of privileges every day, theyíre the incidentals, the byproducts of our real freedom. Iím talking about the big-ticket stuff. About being able to choose to marry a man or a woman or being able to vote or dress like the opposite sex or speak our mind regardless of what our opinion may be. Or to worship or not to worship. Thatís the stuff swirling in my head today.

See, as I sat around people watching over the weekend, as I so often do over the Fourth of July, it occurred to me that weíre all far luckier than we even realize, sitting in our little lawn chairs playing Bocce and flipping burgers. We all know weíre free, sure, but we donít spend enough time really focusing on what that truly means and how it impacts our day to day. We put our hand over our heart during the Star Spangled Banner and then weíre right back to lighting sparklers. And I just think we need to preserve that feeling all the time somehow.

Most of us living in a free country arenít oppressed, obviously, so we donít consciously think about oppression. Weíre not living under a dictator, so we donít think about how it might feel to have someone else making all the decisions for us. Weíre not rationing food or water so we donít think about what itís like to be hungry or malnourished. We just donít. We have no reason to. You know, out of sight, out of mind in most cases.

But we should. We should be acknowledging and treasuring the liberties that we have every single day. We should be grateful that weíre free to drive to the nearest Pump íN Pantry at 2 a.m. to satisfy that craving for Cool Ranch Doritos. Free to shave only one half of our head if we want. Free to stroll into a grocery store and buy any kind of food we feel like eating. But of course we donít think of it that way. Weíre so used to the independence we have that weíre flying on autopilot most of the time. We donít think of these things as privileges. Yet they are.

Because, when weíre free, every day of our lives, living with few, if any, real restrictions, we often take that freedom for granted. We forget that there were times in history, very recent history, when it wasnít so easy to live freely. In fact, it was near impossible.

Thatís why these rights we have need to be celebrated and talked about and openly appreciated and cherished. Every day. By all of us. I think that the spirit and patriotism and gratitude that we feel on Independence Day needs to extend to every other day of the year. And, most importantly, it needs to extend down to our kids.

We canít forget how lucky we are. And itís our job to teach them how lucky they are.

So letís do that, ok? Letís try to all be a little more present and grateful and humble about this amazing gift we have. Letís pass that feeling of appreciation on to our kids and have them ultimately do the same. Because thatís how we affect the collective consciousness. Thatís how we humble people and soften their thinking and influence their behavior. Well, it canít hurt anyway.

ó Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.