OPINION

Finding the real: We must be thankful for our freedom

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Jennifer Stultz is the Editor of the Pratt Tribune, Kiowa County Signal, St. John News for Gannett Kansas.

Rec league soccer games, Ag Day at Skyline, Pratt High School prom, track meets, baseball and softball, play productions, business grand openings, church and related-activities, academic celebrations, special board meetings, eating out  - as much as last spring seemed to be a yawning abyss of nothingness due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, this spring seems to be a chaotic conflusion of events that come so fast and hard it is barely possible to register them on the radar let alone savor the moments. And I  wonder, why do we do it?

Historic moments are being recorded in many ways this spring in our community through academic achievements of students, efforts to eradicate the coronavirus disease, never-before-done success in athletics at PCC or live-streamed show productions at Barclay College. What will it all mean in a few years, in 100 years, in the next century?

Strangely, in all of the busyness this spring I found myself lying flat in bed missing a lot of it, twice. I was almost thankful for the after-effects of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shots that gave me an excuse to just do nothing but lie there and wait for the splitting headaches to recede. And then after I tweaked my hip by stepping in a shallow hole, I again found myself only comfortable lying flat in bed, wondering how the world was turning without me trying to keep track of it all.

After way too much thinking on my part, I came to the conclusion that much like the writer of the biblical book of Ecclesiastics - all is vanity. We chase the wind seeking that pinnacle of euphoria, that perfect achievement, that moment of pride that makes all the time put in worth the effort. And then we walk away to begin again, start anew another project that will require dedication, time sacrifice, even perhaps exclusion of all other distractions in order to reach to the stars through difficulty.

It’s what we humans do. Our state motto reflects that is worthwhile to achieve, to grow, to better ourselves, to reward those who make it, to be the best that we can be. And I have no argument with that. It is what has spurred me on often when faced with difficult situations or a deep desire to prove to someone (mostly myself) that I can do it. To the stars through difficulty.

Perhaps what brings all of this busyness and achievement full circle for me, and hopefully for others who have been so blessed with the opportunities, is finding that God has placed the right people in the right places at the right times for the circle to keep turning. The secret to finding the fortitude to do the right thing, the good thing, the thing that leads to success, is remembering to be thankful for the parts and participles that make such freedom to pursue whatever it is that makes us happy, possible.

I hope someday all those children playing on the soccer field will realize what an effort it took for mom or dad to put gas in the tank, snacks in the bag, buy the cleats, grab the blankets and clear the Saturday schedule just to stand on the sideline and cheer with all their hearts for that right-on kick. I hope they say thank you.

And how about that dress-shop owner who ordered every style and color possible so as to provide the local girls with phenomenal prom-gown selections for their special occasions? Thankfulness is in order, especially in the small-town market areas of rural Kansas where not only is a perfect fit possible, but the customer service that comes with it far outweighs any express order direct from China at cut-rate prices.

And then there is the massive community support that goes into a play production such as Barclay College’s recent “Newsies” musical. That was amazing - the cast, the set, the facility, the director, the show. Four months of dedication and show like one might see on Broadway in New York. We are truly blessed here in rural Kansas. And there is that special group of young people from Pratt Community College called "Encore" who somehow make time amid their own busy study schedules to sing at area care facilities and give uplifting concerts in several different local venues. Amazing.

We have so much to be thankful for in Pratt and the surrounding area at this time of year, and most any time of year. Not only do we have shopping options, eating options, employment options and medical, spiritual and physical support systems that help those on the achievement trail reach their best, we have the protection of honorable police and sheriff departments. Considering the current unrest in much of the nation around us, we should be very thankful, not only for the local police and sheriff departments, but also for the top-notch 911 Dispatch Office we have here that coordinates all Pratt city and county emergency responses.

Here in our home town we also have city and county government officials who act in good conscience and not in pursuit of pride or greed, and for that we must be thankful. They have chosen a largely thankless way to serve their communities, looking at the bigger picture, what we hope is the greater good for all of us, and for that we must be thankful.

Most of all, we must remember to be thankful for the freedoms we have here and now to enjoy or express displeasure with any of the above because of the military service members who laid down their lives or put them on hold to protect and serve our country, our way of life. We must be thankful we live in America and not take freedom for granted.

I read several very good books that made a big impact on me during my recent hiatus from all of the busyness earlier this year. One was about the Rwandan genocide and a young girl who survived solely because of her faith in God, and the people who came into her life at just the time and place. Another book was about a young German sent into a Siberian work camp unjustly after WWII and his miraculous escape by walking across a frozen wasteland for three years.

We do the things we do here in America, and here in Pratt County because we can, and we must never forget to be thankful for the people who make our strivings possible and for the freedom we have to blow in the wind. As I found, sometimes its a good idea to get forced off the hamster wheel and think about those concepts, and to be thankful.