This past weekend I got to visit my sister in Boston, MA for two-and-a-half amazing days; the city is full of incredible historical sites and our time was filled with visiting the birthplaces of famous revolutionary events and the homes of people whose sacrificial lives enable me to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that America offers. From the site of the Boston Tea Party, to the Old North Church, to Paul Revere’s house, I felt like I was stepping into our nation’s collective past and I loved every single minute.
So many things stood out to me (and continue to, as I reflect) as I walked around this beautiful city, but here’s the thought that I can’t escape: it was the daily, individual choices of the Founding Fathers, the militiamen, and the brave patriot families who sacrificed everything for what was then only the idea of America that birthed our nation and gave us the rights and liberties that we (quite honestly) take for granted today. Think for a minute about what constitutes your daily routine and the decisions that you make to stand up for something bigger than yourself and then imagine what it would be like for those choices to affect the very course of history and the lives of millions who would come after.
It gives you perspective, doesn’t it?
For instance, think of the crowd who destroyed all of those tons of tea during the Boston Tea Party: I visited the museum on the harbor commemorating the site and gained a whole new perspective on the event. I didn’t realize before that it was such an important (if not the most important) catalysts of the Revolutionary War and that the repercussions included mass starvation of the city (a punishment from King George) along with, of course, the Intolerable Acts levied by Parliament. Usually, I think mainly of well-known figures like James Otis, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams in connection with the event, but now I realize that a whole population was impacted and entire families were thereby directly involved in the fight for freedom. Basically, ordinary people made what we now know to be a world-changing decision. I wonder if they all could have guessed at the time what history would say of them later, but my guess is that few, if any, could have predicted that one night of rabble-rousing would result in a war to create a completely new nation.
A similar thought occurred to me as I listened to an engaging narrator relate the story of Paul Revere’s revered (catch that one?) “midnight ride.” The entire escapade that famous night was incredibly daring and Revere’s personal role could have easily resulted in catastrophe. Had he not cleverly evaded the almost certain repercussions of being caught by a small troop British soldiers, he might not have survived to write down the tale later. He was one man in the midst of many, of course, but his actions that night are known all over the world and I seriously doubt that he could have foreseen that at the time.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go around revolting or haunting the streets at midnight, but I am saying that it does us good to remember every now and then what a personal thing the founding of this nation was to so many that we will never meet and never even know anything about. If the daily decisions of countless brave souls brought the millions that live in America (and, by extension, the billions that inhabit the entire world) to where we are, what can YOUR daily decisions and sacrificial choices do? After all, sometimes it’s not always apparent in the moment or even in your lifetime what your choices will result in, but maybe one day you’ll wake up and find that you’ve changed the world, even if it’s just your own small corner of it.