I opened my mail one day last week and discovered that lady luck had smiled on me. The letter congratulated me on holding the lucky number for the USA Lottery Sweepstakes and informed me that I had won $250,000. WOW!

There was also a check for $3,974.46 in the envelope. That amount would more than pay for the “insurance, handling and shipping fees” for my winning check of $250,000. All I had to do was call my claims agent, give him the PIN # assigned to me and he would instruct me on what I needed to do to receive my quarter of a million dollars.

It seemed too good to be true. And it was.

The enclosed check looked authentic. It was drawn on the account of a very reputable and recognized international company. But it was a fake. This scam has been around so long that you would think nobody would fall for it.

If I had called my “claims agent” I would have been instructed to deposit the check I received into  my bank account. Then I was to send $3900 to cover the expenses related to delivery of my winnings. The catch is that by time I learn that the check I deposited into my bank account is bogus, the money I sent is gone. I would have been out almost $4000.

This is one incident that proves the truth of the old saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

I receive a lot of email offers for discounted merchandise and services. Some of them have presented real money saving offers. Recently one of the companies had iPads at a ridiculously low price. When I passed it on to my son he cautioned me to never buy anything from this company. Minimal research revealed that there were many, many complaints that what was offered was not a good deal. Once again: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It doesn’t take too many experiences like the ones described above to make a person very cynical. It is easy to become suspicious of everything that looks good.

Tomorrow is July 4th. It is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. The day will be marked by patriotic displays of all kinds. Decorations of red, white, and blue will be everywhere.

Amidst the pomp and circumstance of Fourth of July celebrations it is easy to forget the significance of the day. The celebration of our independence affirms some very basic and essential rights for the American people.

Since Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his famous Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence has become the ultimate statement of human rights. It asserts the belief that “all men are created equal”  and  that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Among these are  “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It has been said that this passage represents “a moral standard to which the United States should strive.”

I am glad that the standard is set and I believe we are making progress toward the ultimate goal of equality for all people. If that goal seems too good to be true, look again.

Multitudes across the globe suffer under oppressive governments without even the most basic human rights. Military coups and sectarian violence are the order of the day in many parts of the world. We do not live in a perfect society in the United States but the freedoms we enjoy- and often take for granted- are the dreams of millions. From their perspective this “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all” seems too good to be true. But thank God it is not a fantasy. Freedom is a priceless gift that must be cherished. Let us be thankful and live responsibly.

Jamie Jenkins