Usually in my annual gratitude post I write about people in my life. My family and friends are an easy source of unending gratitude. This year, though, I want to write about something a little bit different.
This year I’m grateful for my country, the United States. This has somehow become a slightly polarizing sentiment and sometimes interpreted as being partisan, and it’s become en vogue to bash our country and focus only on its faults. And, yes, our country has its faults, both at the highest levels in government down to all of us as individuals. But we can be grateful for something even if it isn’t perfect.
I’m grateful that we live in a country where a good life is possible for most of the population. Opportunity may not be distributed as evenly as we could aspire to, but we have a country where people can visualize a life they’d like to live, whether urban or rural, frenetic or peaceful, tropical or in the desert, and can work towards getting that life. I like that we have so many states that are so different, and that we can window shop between them and choose the one best for us.
Congress has an abysmal approval rating, and our president’s rating isn’t too impressive either. And yet, government functions enough to keep us safe and stable. Often as Americans we take this for granted, but if you look at what entire populations in many people in other countries have to deal with, we have it quite good. I’m grateful for the system that we have which has held up remarkably well to the challenges of our current times, and to all the people who work in government, often in unseen positions, who are the gears that keep our society moving.
I’m also grateful for all of my fellow citizens. I probably disagree with nearly every single one about something, and most on at least some fundamental issues, but I also see Americans band together to help each other in times of crisis and I believe that most people want what is best for the country, even if we can’t agree on what that is. It’s easy to demonize other groups, and there are certainly some small ones that deserve it, but I think most humans, Americans included, are good people who want to do the right thing.
When I could travel all around the world I was constantly in awe of the natural wonders in other countries. Being mostly stuck in the US for the past nine months has helped me be more grateful for what we have here. I had some vague prejudice against Florida, but when I visited a friend there early in the pandemic I was struck by how beautiful the beach was, with plovers running away from the tide and giant pelicans flying above. We took a little hike and saw armadillos, too. In Vegas we have an incredible lake, Lake Mead, which I’ve boated on and even scuba dove in for the first time, and soon it will be time to ski in the mountains. In Hawaii we have volcanoes, reefs, and flowers and greenery everywhere. Had I traveled more around the US I could have seen just about every other kind of ecosystem that exists.
The more we are grateful for, the happier we will be. Nothing is perfect, which makes it very easy to focus on the positive and be grateful, or to be negative and be ungrateful. Being ungrateful is easier and often more popular, but it’s better for oneself and those around us to be grateful. America isn’t the only great country in the world, and isn’t perfect, but I’m grateful to have been born here, to have grown up here, and to continue to live much of my life here.
Photo is a sign above a paleta stand in Hilo, Hawaii
Gear post is coming! I waffled on whether or not to do one this year, but tradition is tradition. I’m currently in the middle of moving (stil in Vegas), so I’ll see if I can get it done in the next week or two.