The Black and Whites in Life

I appreciate the black and whites in life.

As a swimmer, I loved having clear-cut information about who performed better. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, at the end of the race, who was better (on that day). In other sports that I played, like field hockey and soccer, it wasn’t as obvious who was the most talented player on the field, or who had the best game. Yes, there was a winning team and a losing team, but that isn’t the same. I don’t understand how people can compete in sports like figure skating, gymnastics or diving where the scoring is so subjective. Clearly my competitive nature wouldn’t hold up well in those arenas.

Much to Matt’s frustration, I love following the rules. I like knowing right from wrong and I interpret the rules as black and white. This is probably the biggest contention between Matt and I. When it comes to rule following, he is MUCH more grey.

While I see a locked door as a clear sign that I am not supposed to go in somewhere, Matt sees it as a mental and physical, challenge to find his way in. While I see a door marked “private” at the back of a bar as a clear indication that I shouldn’t go in, Matt sees it as a special VIP room just for him.  Thankfully, he has great friends who are always there to break the rules with him or to bail him out if he finds himself in trouble (as he usually does).

Growing up in my household, there were a lot of things that were black and white, but none more apparent than smoking. My father is a pulmonary physician (aka a lung doctor) who sees the negatives that come from smoking on a daily basis. Lung cancer, COPD, and emphazima are the black and white outcomes of smoking. The World Health Organization estimates that over 100 million deaths have occurred over the course of the 20th century due to smoking. There is no rational for smoking, no grey area. I still remember when my dad visited  my 2nd grade class to talk about the harmful effects of smoking. He brought in a real lung, enclosed in a glass case, that was from the body of someone who smoked the majority of their lifetime. It was shrunken and black. The effects of seeing this have stayed with me my entire lifetime. Afterwards, my class wrote thank you notes to my dad, and each one contained the shaky handwriting of an 8-year-old, saying they would never start smoking. In high school, many of these same classmates did in fact start smoking. My dad had saved the pile of thank you letters, and 10 years later, I gave them back to the original authors. They read their own 8-year-old statements, swearing off cigarettes forever. I am not sure how successful I was in encouraging these people to quite smoking, but I hope I helped them see this subject as a little more black and white.

Over the weekend, our country celebrated Independence Day. 234 years ago, on July 2nd, our founding fathers succeeded in achieving a legal separation from Great Britain. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was signed containing the basic principles that our country rests upon today. A day before the document was signed, John Adams wrote a letter home which contained his wishes for our future celebrations:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

While his prediction was two days off, I am confident that he would find our annual celebration of our nation’s birth as quite adequate. It doesn’t get more american than fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, and family reunions.

The 4th of July is truly a black and white holiday and for that, it is far and away my favorite holiday. There aren’t any religious affiliations, gifts to give, or hallmark cards to buy. The expectations are that you use this day to remember what is great about our country and why we are proud to be Americans (something that has been lost of late). A day to celebrate our freedom and thank those who made it possible. A day to eat a hamburger, sing patriotic songs and watch the fireworks in the sky above. A day to wear red, white and blue. A day where political parties should be forgotten, and the unity that we have a country should be remembered. A day to be American.

 It really is that simple; it is black and white.