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Liberty and Goodwill

I believe dreams find reality through imaginative and innovative compromises. 

As a young girl, I loved to barter at thrift stores. I would find stacks of books, of ten or twenty, and rarely pay more than a couple dollars. Some said I was addicted to the books. I did devour them nearly as quickly as I purchased them. But there was also a certain thrill to bartering that somehow added a certain glory to my books. 

The better the deal, the better the read, it often seemed. 

I think that I saw the world as I saw Goodwill, one of my favorite stores. 

Everything and everyone tuned toward my dreams. The passage was wide, the path smooth. And the price? A single smile that charmed all toward my desires.

The world truly wished me good will. 

I saw life as our founding fathers must have, as they must have viewed what we ambiguously call the American Dream and its master, Liberty. 

And then my world crashed. 

Goodwill posted a notice, stating something along the lines of: “We no longer barter. Prices are as marked."

In a moment of devastated disappointment, I wrote: 

Goodwill ain’t got good will

They’re full of high prices. 

Goodwill is a bad deal. 

With them I’ll cut off ties. 

Goodwill ain’t got good will. 

They’re a rip-off factory. 

Goodwill is a steal. 

No price is satisfactory. 

I was fourteen years old. I boycotted Goodwill for many years, telling all my friends to do the same. How dare they take away my opportunity to dream, to do, to simply ask?  

They say growing up jades you. I think it definitely threatens to jade most, and that many are embittered by life’s unwanted colorful experiences. And yet to accept the jaded life is to forfeit the Dream, is it not? 

The Land of The Opportunity is a unique land. So we think, so we have other lands duped into also thinking. 

In many ways, we are unique. Thrift stores are predominantly an American thing. They exist, of course, all over. Just as liberty and dreams may be owned by any man regardless of nationality. And yet, even the French look to the Americans as the embodiment of revolution's success.

But reality has shown us to be nothing more than a land full of jaded dreamers.

As a slightly more grown up girl, I still love bartering at thrift stores. One of my obsessions when I traveled to Europe was visiting their thrift stores. European friends thought I was weird. “Why would you want to buy something second hand?” They didn’t understand the thrill; the searching and striving for an opportunity and succeeding. 

For a time, my devoured books made me think the same. I read patriotic stories and fell in love with the principles of my heritage. I spoke of the freedoms only we had; the freedom to do, to live, to worship as man chooses. 

But this moment was shattered by my stay in Germany. They were little different from us, I found. We were too much like them. In fact, I could engage in bartering more freely there than here. I found many dream worthy bargains. 

I saw limitations, but I had liberty. It was then that I started realizing something; that liberty always leaves a loophole: namely it’s limited only by ignorance, and knowledge indeed sets us free. Not knowledge as in book-learning, but as in awareness of who I am, of who I belong to, of my duties, and even more, of the delights that I may and must have. 

Liberty doesn’t dwell in a nation, or in the actions of bartering, I found, but through me and my thoughts. Liberty is I, even as I am free. 

So liberty is made apparent through me, shining alone in my eyes and smile, held in my hands alone, shared through my actions and words, known by what I do. 

I recently watched the Broadway filming of Hamilton. I was told it would make me cry. It did. Not because of the death I saw though; but because of how our founding fathers, though they survived the war, died in duels simply because they could not agree on what liberty is about. 

And maybe that has been the lifelong failure, even to define something so abstract, so tailored to fit perfectly only one individual. How can liberty reign if it is ruled by men? How can something so beautiful expand and flourish if we must write if down in strict definitions?

Our founding fathers could not give us freedom, because the moment they began to try and define it they limited liberty’s capacity to rule. Trying to regulate evil possibilities, I think goodwill was overlooked.

The good will to possess our own liberty, and to allow their fellowman to possess their liberty, all in charity, bartering when there was desire and need.

And yet, our forefathers left loopholes, for I do think many of them had good will. 

Their gift to us was not liberty, but the truth that if we but wished, we could own it. 

For what is liberty, but really something that one claims as a personal lifestyle? You need no permission, no law nor lack of law. Simply to live, alongside good will, fueled by childhood dreams, governed by pursuits and purpose alone. If you dream and you do, then there remains the possibility of an opportunity. It only takes a little imagination, and perhaps some bartering.  

But never do we barter away the true prize. No, then the deal would turn sour, even as our false American pride is now a loathsome stench across all the nations; a laughing stock for the Mother nation we scorned. For even the other nations live as we do, free and proud.

But here I am, already, doing just what I said shouldn't be done. Telling you what liberty ought to look like.

There came a day where my bitterness ended, and I entered Goodwill once more. And I saw an opportunity, a loophole. A garment with a small tear. “Will you take less for this?”

Despite all policies, I made a barter. 

Is this not what it means to be grown up?


Not to be jaded, but to find what reality can actually become, despite all setbacks and barricades. To bring liberty to light where only regulations are visible? And to do it all with style, gumption, and joy?

Is this not the epitome of the American Dream? To find and to accomplish, to plan and to improvise, and to rise as the dreamer that did rather than died? 

Written 8/27/2020


  1. Ahh you say Hamilton!! And I love thrift stores!

  2. I love this! I cried at Hamilton too.

  3. Wow, I love that idea...that childhood is freedom and the expectation that everything is possible, adolescence is being jaded when you find out this isn't true, and adulthood is finding those loopholes. (Sometimes I feel like I'm still stuck in the adolescence phase, alas. :P)
    And although liberty on a nationwide level is of course important, you're so right that in a way (by far the most important way) liberty has nothing to do with where you live but everything to do with HOW you live. I, for one, intend to live like a person who's free.

    1. Me, too! Feeling jaded, I mean. But really, life has been looking up these last few months as I've chosen to believe in hope despite all appearances ;p Haha.

      So funny, I finished War and Peace after writing this post. And it spoke on Liberty in such a way that I was not able to fully articulate here. Sooo good! There will be a review coming soon.


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