I dream of freedom as a world where addiction did not destroy lives, where children did not go hungry, where every child has an opportunity for education.

She was five years old, and her mother thought it was funny to get her drunk for company because it was entertaining. She wanted to please her. She was nine years old, raising her younger brother, caring for her mother who could not function. She was twelve years old, bullied because of her lack of clothing and her body odor. She was embarrassed because she did not have a television at home to complete her homework which required watching the local news. Sometimes, she had no home. She was thirteen, sleeping in a car on the worst nights, sleeping inside the closets of vacant homes on the best nights. A kind teacher offered her private time to shower in the locker room. She was fourteen years old, observed her parents using while she and her brother went hungry, enduring yet another failed suicide attempt by her mother. She was sixteen years old, living on a neighbor’s couch which oddly, was the most stability she experienced. She was eighteen years old, and no one in her life had ever asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She had to decide. She was twenty years old, and someone told her she would never be more than a single mother on welfare. She was twenty one years old, and she took two buses each way with a baby on her hip to get to her GED and take secretarial classes. She was twenty three years old, and someone took a chance and gave her an opportunity. She was thirty two years years old, and in a position to now give others an opportunity they may not have otherwise had. She was thirty six years old, working full time, earning her bachelor’s degree at home at night, raising three children. She was forty two years old, and still haunted by her past experiences at times, but confident she had changed the path for her children.

Freedom would be a radical change in the way we live our lives, turning our backs on the self imposed restraints created when thinking we were building walls of protection, because in reality we were constructing cages. Not to erase what we have lived through, but to let go enough to no longer have the fear of what we’ve earned from being taken away. My freedom dream is release of the worry that haunts lives from past experiences endured, in a nation where these issues should not exist. Freedom is unlimited educational opportunity for all.

Freedom is simply being treated, and treating others, with kindness, because you never know what their personal vision of freedom may be.

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