Maren Schmidt: Practicing freedom |

Maren Schmidt: Practicing freedom

Maren Schmidt

Freedom is a tenuous situation at best. The ability to freely do something interconnects with several attributes that include critical thinking and the courage to act or not act, as the case may be.

Gullible folks lend themselves to the idea that there is a sucker born every minute, while a proverb says a fool and his money are soon parted. Thinking and acting in foolish ways robs us of our freedoms.

William Faulkner wrote that “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it,” joining the ideas of thinking and doing as two aspects of freedom.

On one hand, we need to be aware of forces trying to take away our freedoms. On the other, we inadvertently give freedoms away because we neglect to exercise or use them.

We forget to practice.

The exercise of free will by choosing one response or another to a situation is the key to our freedom. When we choose to act and not react to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we practice freedom. When we choose to do what we ought to do and not what we can get away with, we practice freedom.

A recent neighborhood newsletter tackled the issue of cleaning up after your dog. “We all have the freedom to not clean up after our dog,” the letter read. “We should use our right to have a dog to do what is right: using our pooper-scoopers to make our neighborhood streets and parks clean and enjoyable for all. Clean up after your dog. Don’t expect someone to do the job for you.”

At one level practicing freedom is a lot like cleaning up after yourself or your dog. It’s not particularly glamorous. Practicing freedom requires responsibility, self-discipline and self-respect.

Practicing freedom requires that we stop and consider our options, choose the best ones, and implement our choices with discipline and regard for others and ourselves.

Our world today is faced with cleaning up after a lot of people who didn’t use their freedoms to do what was right. Freedoms were abused to obtain the expedient, profitable, and easy.

Our politicians ask us to pass the financial responsibility on to a generation of children now in diapers.

Recovering from our economic messes requires that we practice freedom by stopping to choose the best alternatives and putting them in action with self-control and value for those who follow after us.

Unfortunately, we are left to clean up after other people’s “dogs.” Perhaps, too, we are left to clean up after our own messes resulting from not practicing freedom.

Our choices boil down to toughing it out and taking care of the mess now; leaving it for our children and/or grandchildren to clean up; or ignoring the mess and risk tracking the mess into our homes for many years.

Freedom is not about doing what you’d like. It’s about having the freedom to do what is right.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents. Contact her at or visit Copyright 2009.

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