As our country debates over entitlements and the associated costs, I am compelled to weigh in. Our society has an insatiable appetite to have it all. This hunger can motivate us to do more, work harder, run faster, and savor the rewards of our efforts. In contrast, our unsatisfied appetites simply leave us hungry and hollow. So, let’s look at the contrast between entitlement and reward.

Reward is defined as a thing given in recognition of one’s services, effort, or achievement.

Entitlement is defined as having the right to something; inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

The lines between these two are often blurred by your individual reality. One of you may be born with inherent physical strength or intelligence. Another may come into the world with a lifelong disabling disability. A disability where working harder and running faster is not achievable.

As a nurse, I’ve touched the texture of disability at its core, with all the inherent fear and frustration. I’ve seen the sadness and shock in the face of parents who realize their child will never grow toward independence. Instead, the child they so eagerly awaited will have very different measurements of success: holding a spoon, speaking a word, giving a kiss. Active parental support will last a lifetime.

For those of us who are given the gift of an able body and mind at birth, we have already received our finest reward; the ability to develop and gather new abilities with every passing year. We have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But, the disability could have been ours or that of our child. The randomness of birth defects can be astonishing.

As a country of compassion, we have a choice. And we have made the right choice throughout the years: providing entitlements to those who cannot seek their own independent rewards, the ones who require our assistance to survive.

We have a proud history of helping, of lifting up those less fortunate, of understanding how instantly we could be the one needing rather than giving. Who we are and what we do separates us from savages. I’m proud of America carrying that legacy forward.   

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