Why I’m Grateful for America the Great

America’s “birthday,” July Fourth, is coming up soon. All across the United States, this holiday is a chance to grill out, watch parades, admire fireworks, and hang flags on our front porches. I would venture to say that most of us feel a swell of patriotic pride as we look at all of the red, white, and blue surrounding us. Yes, even though we all have our personal beefs with aspects of American life (just turn on a political talk show if you’re skeptical), I think that overall we know we’re fortunate to live in this great land.

In honor of July Fourth, I have written down seven reasons why I’m grateful to live in the United States of America. My list is by no means exhaustive, but I think it does represent aspects of our country that we often take for granted. This Fourth, in addition to enjoying a holiday with your community, I encourage you to reflect on how living in America has shaped your life specifically.

As an American, I’m grateful for:

  • Our security. While attacks from terrorists (both foreign and domestic) have proven that the United States is not completely invulnerable, we do live very secure lives compared to many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Wars are not being fought on our soil, and our neighbors are friendly. Can you imagine what it would be like to not feel safe walking out of your own front door, or to live in a city that has been literally and figuratively torn apart by conflict? Furthermore, our fabulous law enforcement professionals are constantly on duty to make sure that our communities are safe, fair, and just places to live.
  • Our standard of living. Compared to so many other people on this planet, Americans live comfortable, secure, and even luxurious lives. Most of us live in our own homes, drive our own cars, have plenty to eat, and enjoy amenities ranging from smartphones to laptops to grocery stores to movie theaters. However, I think our high standard of living can be difficult to fully appreciate unless you have traveled to other parts of the world and seen what “normal” is like in various other countries.
  • The American Dream. It’s still alive and well! This is a country where you can do what you want, build a comfortable life, and even rise to impressive heights if you are positive, honest, and work hard. You do not have to be confined to a certain place or profession if you do not want to be.
  • Diversity. America continues to be The Great Melting Pot, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Even in my own community, and especially around the country as a whole, there is so much variety in terms of culture, food, background, beliefs, etc. Every person and family is different, and each lives a unique life. I truly wouldn’t want to live in a place where everyone looked, behaved, and thought similarly. Over the course of my life, I have grown so much as a person because I have been exposed to new viewpoints, traditions, ideas, and experiences thanks to people around me.
  • Medical care and education. Again, you may have your complaints about medical care and the education system in the United States, but comparatively, both are very high quality. People come to our country from all around the world specifically to take advantage of them. I am glad that there are professionals ready to safeguard my health around the clock, and that we are guaranteed a top-notch education at least through age 17 or 18—and longer if we choose to pursue a higher-education degree.
  • Water. You can drink it whenever you want without worrying about getting sick. You can buy it bottled and by the case in many stores. You can take long, hot showers and baths. You can even immerse yourself in it if you go to a pool, river, or lake. By comparison, many countries around the world have contaminated, non-potable water and/or have to deal with major water shortages.
  • The postal service. Talk about something we really take for granted but still rely heavily on even in the digital age. When you think about it, it’s amazing that you can put a letter in your mailbox and be pretty sure it will end up where you want it to go in a short period of time. I want to extend my thanks to all postal service workers who help ensure that this process remains reliable and quick.

So, who can we thank for all of these things (and many more)? Well, the America we know today is here because our ancestors came to this land—often with nothing—and worked hard to build better lives for themselves and their children. From our Founding Fathers to America’s great businessmen and inventors to the millions of individuals who crossed oceans to become citizens, we owe those who came before and paved the way for us to enjoy the comfortable lives we know today.

We should also thank America’s military, past and present. Since before the United States was officially a nation, soldiers have fought and died for our freedom, security, and national interests, and their families have borne the heavy burden of sending loved ones to war.

Lastly, we can all thank the individuals who, in large or small ways, make our own corners of America a great place to live. Teachers, medical professionals, government employees, and many, many more provide essential services without which our lives would be very different.

So, Happy Birthday, America! On July Fourth and every other day, here’s to the U.S.A.!

 

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“Thank-Yous” Every Father Should Hear

On Sunday, June 16th—otherwise known as Father’s Day—dads across America will receive ties, tools, and other “toys” from their children. Sure, those gifts (as well as cards, visits, and family meals) are a great way to let Pops know that you love him and that you’re glad he’s part of your life. Like many of you, I am hoping to spend the day with my father and with my son, probably at the beach with Josh and maybe a nice meal later with my dad.

But this year, in addition to the “traditional” Father’s Day activities, I thought about what I could do to really honor my dad in a way he’ll remember and cherish. It didn’t take me very long to think of an answer: Tell Dad thank you and mean it.

I know that stereotypically speaking men aren’t supposed to be very “touchy-feely.” But I promise you—speaking as a father myself—when it comes to your kids, all of those rules go out the window. I cherish every “I love you,” “thanks,” and genuine smile I’ve ever gotten from my son, Josh. It’s incredibly heartwarming and fulfilling to hear directly from your child that he or she thinks you’ve done a good job as a parent.

Unfortunately, because our parents tend to be such constant presences in our lives, we often take them—and everything they’ve done for us—for granted. No, your dad probably wasn’t perfect (no parent is!), but chances are, he helped you become a capable, responsible, and fulfilled adult, and he always wanted the best for you. Father’s Day is the perfect time to think about all of the specific ways in which your dad has impacted your life. As I plan to do, I hope you’ll also spend some time reflecting on your relationship with your father and give him the gift of heartfelt thanks.

To help you get started, here are eleven “thank-yous” that might just make your dad’s Father’s Day perfect:

  • Thank you for almost always making time to come to my games, concerts, and awards ceremonies. I know you were under pressure and busy a lot of the time, so your priorities taught me that family and relationships are always more important than work and outside achievements.
  • Thank you for supporting me when I decided I’d rather be in the school band than play basketball. The fact that you clapped loudest at our concert let me know unequivocally that you love me for who I am—especially since you were the star point guard during your own high school days!
  • Thank you for making me help with yard work and home improvement projects on the weekends. I may not have enjoyed it at the time, but you taught me the value of hard work. Because of you, I take pride in a job well done, no matter how large or small!
  • Thank you for teaching me to ride a bike, and especially for encouraging me to get back up and try again when I fell. I learned that persistence and practice pay off, and that the results can be fantastic!
  • Thank you for coaching my YMCA sports teams. You showed me what good sportsmanship looks like and taught me why it’s important to shake hands after every game, even if we lost! In all aspects of my adult life, I know how to lose (and win!) with grace because of you, Dad. And even though I’ve aged out of Little League, I also exercise on a regular basis and try to stay physically fit.
  • Thank you for disciplining me and telling me why you were disappointed. I certainly didn’t enjoy being punished, but now I have a strong set of core values and a firm sense of right and wrong.
  • Thank you for teaching me how to drive and for remaining patient throughout the process—I know I wasn’t always the nicest student. Now I can merge, parallel park, and back like a pro. (But I’m still trying to beat your least-number-of-stops-on-the-way-to-the-beach record!)
  • Thank you for showing me that there’s a difference between being aggressively confrontational and being politely firm. Because of you I stick to my convictions and don’t let others take advantage of me while remaining respectful.
  • Thank you for making executive decisions on everything from where to eat dinner to when to leave the neighbors’ holiday party to which movie to watch on family night. These examples may seem insignificant, but over the years you taught me the value of knowing your mind and acting decisively. You saved me a lot of waffling, hemming, and hawing!
  • Thank you for always treating Mom with respect, patience, love, and sometimes a little mischievousness. You taught me how to treat someone you love and what a strong marriage looks like. Now I have a great relationship—and a lot of fun—with my own partner.

And for men specifically, I also suggest some version of this acknowledgment:

  • Thank you for teaching me the “essentials” like how to tie a tie, iron a crease into slacks, shine my shoes, and shave. While I might not put all of those skills to use every day, I always take pride in my appearance…and I think I do “clean up” nicely!

Whether you write your own personalized thank-yous in a card or share them with your dad in person, you can rest assured that this will be a Father’s Day he’ll remember forever. Here’s to you, Dad!