As I write this I stand behind the counter of a small four pump gas station. I know times have changed. With the passing years innocence has been lost and with it the general trust of a nation. No longer can there be doors left unlocked. Cars no longer can be found left standing idle and the owner vacant from his seat.

The world has truly changed. Coming into my little gas station over seventy miles from Chicago you know you’re in rural America and yet like the big city you will find things locked. There is a key to the propane stand, a key for ice and separate keys for the restrooms. The men’s room even had its key stolen block and all once upon a time.

Who would have thought thirty years ago that we’d have to pay for such things as water and even air to fill our car tires? These days we even buy soil for our gardens (though the gas station draws the lines there.)

Gas today will begin at $3.59 and it’s gone down 20 cents in the last few weeks. A propane exchange will cost $16.99. The cheapest cigarettes are $5.23 a pack.

I think of my not so long ago youth. Gas was $1.39 a gallon. I don’t know what propane cost but I don’t think I was much, for if it was my neighbors down the clock wouldn’t have bought a new gas grill three years in a row when theirs got stolen for the third consecutive year. Cigarettes couldn’t have been as high then either. My best friend’s dad was a trucker and he always seemed to have a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip. They never had much but he always had his smokes.

It’s not just the cost of living that’s gone up. It’s our very sense of being that has changed. Think to when you were a child. How often were you actually in the house? Were you playing baseball or stickball in the street? Did you go exploring around the woods or in the creek? Did you collect rocks, feathers or even bits of string? How often did you stay out until your Mom called you in for dinner? Didn’t you go out again as soon as you finished and stay out until it got dark?

I did all that and I’m only 28. I was behind for what the world had already become. I lived and imagined. I still do. I believe that fun can be made on your own and not manufactured. I believe that children should be allowed to be children. They can learn how to behave and still have the freedom that belongs to them.

These days the children of America by and large, whether they live in the country or the city, whether the family has money for food or not, these children live in front of the television or the computer. They gain weight eating snacks, their vision dims from looking at the glow from that TV or monitor and they develop allergies because they don’t experience the great outdoors. In an age of freedom we have voluntarily caged ourselves.

As Americans we live in the greatest country in the world. We have the most advantages. Why do we squander them? Why do we live the way we do?

I don’t have the answer. All I have is a call. Don’t wake up one morning with regrets. If you do now, make a decision. It’ll change your whole life and you’ll find that if you didn’t like yourself or your life before, you will now.

Good luck.