I am a white privileged American. Yes, and if you are black, Hispanic, Asian or an American of any race or background, you too are a privileged American. You live in America. People climb fences, often risking their lives and paying thousands to get here. People from around the world go through the long and frustrating legal immigration process to become an American immigrant. No one could blame anyone for doing anything they can to come to this land of freedom and opportunity.
Could America be better? Of course. Am I dissatisfied with the politicians in Washington? Of course. Are there racists and criminals in our midst? Of course, but their number is dwarfed by the vast majority of responsible, caring citizens of all races.
Most Americans are good people, ready and willing to help their neighbor. When a local news identifies a family in trouble and establishes a GoFundMe link, people respond within minutes. I love the response of a friend who when asked how he is doing, responds with enthusiasm—“I’m blessed out!” Most used to settle for a more modest reply, a simple “fine” or “great.” But to far too many Americans today things aren’t great—“America is racist!” “Capitalism sucks!” “I’m offended by….!”
Some see “systemic racism” while others see “systemic victimhood.” It seems as though every special interest group is competing for who is the greatest victim worthy of special programs to right past wrongs. Too many start in the blame game. Whining has become one of our favorite national pastimes.
Such negativity has a cost. Such angry statements push others away and push themselves even further down in despair. Such constant rumination about what is wrong with America keeps far too many from seeing the opportunities that are there for them. It never dawns on them that hate is like cancer that eats away at their soul. They are their own worst enemy, and they have to live with that enemy 24/7. What a tragedy for them and for our country!
Our Founding fathers helped guarantee the “pursuit of happiness” for Americans, but far too many Americans seem unable to even acknowledge happiness if they found it. An immigrant from India who had lived in true poverty, remembered seeing a program on poverty in America. He had exclaimed to a fellow student at the time, “I want to go to America! Even the poor have televisions and refrigerators!”
His assessment was accurate. The Economist published the results of the OECD’s Better-Life Index which confirmed that the bottom 10 percent of Americans would be middle class or above if they lived in other nations .Yet, you wouldn’t know that by how discontented so many are with life in America. They are so focused on what they don’t have that they would elect politicians who will make their neighbors pay for what they want. It’s hard to find happiness focusing on blaming others for what you don’t have!
One of the most freeing and powerful attributes of truly happy people is an attitude of gratitude. They look for the good and try to make the best of the bad that comes their way. As Christians, we take to heart the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, “In everything give thanks.” If you can’t find anything to be thankful for, you aren’t looking!
I’m thankful for the Founding Fathers who created a country with a Constitution that protects individual citizens from the tyrannical power of big government and a Supreme Court ready to protect those rights.
I’m thankful for freedom of religion where I’m free to worship as I please.
I’m thankful for property rights where I can work hard and earn enough to own my own home and provide a good quality of life for my family now and in the future.
I’m thankful for law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe from criminals and a legal system that affirms that I’m innocent of any alleged crime until actually proven guilty in a court of law.
I’m thankful for an educational system that provides free public education, good teachers, viable trade schools, and amazing college choices that allow citizens to develop their gifts into marketable skills, jobs, and entrepreneurial opportunities that make their dreams possible.
I’m thankful that a citizen’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or nation of origin doesn’t matter to the vast majority of citizens.
I’m thankful we live in a country with national parks, local parks, pristine lakes, mountain trails, and natural treasures that have been protected and are available for citizens to enjoy.
I’m thankful for family, friends, neighbors and the strong communities who bring caring people into my life ready to help and be helped as needed.
I’m thankful for free speech where you can disagree with and even vote to remove the highest powers in the land without having to resort to violence and revolution.
Yes, we are all privileged to be Americans. What would you add to this list of blessings?
If you are frustrated with what is happening in America, you’re probably wondering what you can do to make a difference. Try creatively bridging the gaps with loving service. Stephen Tweed and Elizabeth Jeffries Tweed, my faith brother and sister, belong to Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. Their Bible Study group has worked with a small black church in their neighborhood, Pilgrim Missionary Church . They’ve helped with repairs, shared Bible studies, and recently worshiped together at the small church’s 10thanniversary service.
Stephen shared three words that have guided their focus in this difficult time—Generosity, Grace, and Gratitude. At a time when people around you are in need, go the extra mile and be generous in helping others where you are planted. At a time of division and racial strife, practice grace with others by being more forgiving of those that otherwise would be easy to dislike. And finally, at a time when it is easy to complain, practice gratitude daily for the many blessings God has given us. If we all did the same, the America we hope we could have, would be a whole lot closer to reality. May it be so.
Terry Paulson is PhD psychologist, author, and professional speaker on Earned Optimism, Making Change Work, Claiming Your American Dream, and Becoming a Conservative Values Voter. Contact him to speak before your group at email@example.com.