In 1979 I went to study in England, and apart from vacations in the USA, have lived there until June of this year. During that time I celebrated Thanksgiving just once–during a family reunion year.
After living abroad, and having returned home after twenty five years what am I thankful for about the United States of America?
- Optimism – Americans are still optimistic about the world, about their country and about themselves. They believe that if there is a problem they can fix it, if they are down and out it is possible to be up and in. America is still the land of opportunity and ordinary people seem to know that, and are willing to step out and do something daring.
- Faith –Americans are believers. They might be mixed up and confused in their religion, but they hold to their beliefs with passion and sincerity. The good side of the huge religious cafeteria out there is that people are genuinely tolerant, curious and willing to discuss and defend their beliefs.
- Courage – Because they are believers, Americans are willing to fight for their beliefs. They believe in right and wrong, and they believe that real choice matters. While this courage may be misplaced and mis-used, it means that good folks are willing to get involved and fight for what they think is right. It may be left wing lesbians or right wing pro lifers, but both sides are willing to get involved and ‘fight the good fight.’
- Cheerfulness – There is a lack of cynicism in America. Sometimes it is combined with ignorance, “Do y’all drive over here from England??” and naivete: “Do you know Princess Diana?” but beneath it all there is a common strand of cheerful good humor, open-ness and cheerful acceptance of others.
- Generosity – Its true that Americans are consumers. We use up a huge amount of the world’s resources. We’re rich. We’re prosperous, but we’re also generous. Every day I see people making small sacrifices to help the poor in their community. There are loads of grass roots volunteer organizations as well as high end benefactors. Rich Americans bequeath millions to charity and do so cheerfully.
- Modesty – There are lots of Americans with a chip on their shoulder who strut arrogantly across the stage, but there are more Americans who are genuinely happy to be ordinary. Americans don’t have an aristocracy. They still admire the immigrant who is working hard, the small business man, the stay at home Mom and the student struggling to work his way through college. Americans praise the little guy and trust the little guy. They still distrust the big guys, and that has to be healthy.
- Straight Talking – Because they don’t have as much of a class system, most Americans are able to be themselves, talk straight, say what they mean and mean what they say. They may not be subtle. They may not have a wry, sarcastic sense of humor, but the average American has learned to work hard and play hard. He cracks a joke, strikes a deal, shakes a hand and what you see is what you get. Coming from a society where everyone is adept at saying one thing and meaning exactly the opposite, its a breath of fresh air.
It’s Thanksgiving, so I’ll leave the criticisms for later…
I’m glad to be home. Pass the turkey.