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.!
About the Author:
Todd Patkin , author of Finding Happiness : One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In, Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People , and The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness (coming 2014), grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.