When I stepped onto the treadmill I barely noticed the man next to me. The TV above us was on (as usual) and both of us stared transfixed at the scene: another university protest. “If only they realized how great this country is”, the man whispered. I wasn’t sure if he meant to say the words under his breath, or if he meant them for me.
“Pardon me?” I didn’t want to be rude in case he’d spoken to me.
His sincere eyes met mine.
“This county is great. Amazing, really. I wish they understood how much they have.”
“Yeah. Your right.” I responded without much passion.
I could tell he didn’t think I truly appreciate all I enjoy living here, either. So he continued.
“I came here when I was six. My parents fled El Salvador. I remember walking home from first grade, seeing dead bodies line the street where I lived. Sometimes the memory still haunts me. Can you imagine being six and seeing your neighbors lie dead in the street?
I somberly shook my head “no”. My first grade memories involve a birthday party where I got a new bike.
“We didn’t speak a word of English. I remember walking into a classroom full of children, not understanding a word. But it was ok; learning a language wasn’t nearly as terrifying as facing death. We learned English pretty quickly. My mom and dad got jobs. We worked hard—really hard. But the hard work served us well. I graduated with honors, then worked my way through college. Took me six years, but I did it. I own my own company now. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. Several years ago we became American citizens. Proudest day of my life. I love this country. Or rather, I love our country” he said as a broad grin spread across his face and a twinkle of gratitude filled his eyes.
We gazed back at the screen. At the angry people on both side of the issue.
He sighed. “It’s hard to fully appreciate what you have when you’ve always had it. I just wish they realized how great this country is.”
Today I’m reminding myself about why our country is great. Maybe you could use a fresh reminder, too. Add your thoughts about what makes our country great in the comments section, will you?
- We are free. Truly and completely free.
- We have laws (and law enforcers and military) that keep us safe from harm.
- Our choices are endless. (Look around your grocery store for a reminder).
- We can worship without fear of harm.
- We have access to free education. We are literate and educated. (It’s hard to remember not everyone in the world is)
- We have a heritage of heroism.
- We live in a democracy where each voice matters.
- We live in a place where out constitution guarantees our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Wrap your mind around that truth for a moment).
I’d love to be know what you think makes America a great place to live. Add your thoughts about what makes our country great in the comments section, won’t you?