This post comes a bit late because we were traveling and enjoying a World Renew retreat in Kenya this last week. Now that I'm home I can type up my thoughts. As we celebrated the United States this holiday, here a few things that I am grateful for about my home country. I'm not trying to make a profound point in this post. I simply want to share about the things I'm grateful for that were on my mind this year, as well as some things I'm concerned about and pray about. In both cases, I'm not writing about what is most important, what we should be grateful about or should be concerned about. I wanted to write rather about the things that tend to be on my mind regularly.
I thank God for my country and that I was able to be born there, through no choice of my own. What tremendous privilege I have. Our country is far from perfect (no country is), but there are many good things we can appreciate about it. Here are some specific things I've felt grateful about the US this year, and things I will enjoy during our next visit there in 2019:
- I'm grateful whenever I visit the US that I can enjoy few power outages, few water outages, good roads that are not full of potholes, rest areas while traveling across country, street signs and addresses on homes and businesses, unlimited internet data, noise laws, and pollution laws. I don't have to be afraid of police, worrying that they will try to abuse their power to try to get me to give them a bribe. When jogging I don't have to fear packs of wild street dogs attacking me.
- I'm grateful when driving in the US that most drivers tend to be considerate and safe. And pedestrians usually look both ways before crossing the street.
- I so appreciate the Rule of Law in the US. Laws are enforced by the police and people generally try to obey laws. I have seen that countries without rule of law cannot easily develop or flourish. This is definitely one of the things I am most passionately grateful for concerning the US. I have seen how corruption, bribes, and unfair courts cause devastation in other countries. And I have seen how giving in to bribes and not enforcing laws can create a culture of lawlessness, where people only obey laws when police are watching. One result is that the lack of enforcement of traffic laws causes massive loss of life every year as vehicles don't get repaired and people drive unsafely with no consequences.
- I'm grateful for the generosity and care shown to the poor by both the American government and also American individuals, organizations, and churches. It is incredible generosity both within our country and around the world. In almost every big city of the US there are homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We help people in disaster situations and work for community development. Look up the statistics of how much government aid goes to a single country such as Uganda. Then imagine what we are giving to so many other countries around the world. Then add in all the organizations, churches, and missionaries also helping in these countries. It boggles the mind. I know the USA is a big country, and a rich one. As a nation we don't always help the poor in wise ways, nor do we do enough, but we are doing a lot compared to much of the rest of the world. Besides helping the poor, I am always impressed also by the amount of time we take to try to bring change and transformation to other countries in terms of human rights, education, and development.
- I'm grateful for term limits in our government, for the freedom to criticize our government without fear of being put in prison or being killed, and for free and fair elections. I grew up taking these things for granted, but now I know how easily it can be different.
- This year I became grateful for my student loans I got for college. Not everyone around the world has the luxury of taking student loans and going to college. They would be grateful to finish college and take 30 years to pay off those loans, but they don't have that option.
- It's not important, but I'm regularly grateful for the fun music, movies, books, and games that the American culture produces. There is a lot of junk out there to be sure, but our artists make some good stuff that I enjoy and so do many people from other countries.
- I'm grateful for the access to good healthcare that we have in the US.
- Last, this week I was thinking about the amazing care and accommodation that America shows for those with physical or mental disabilities. I don't think I've ever seen a naked person with mental disabilities walking down the street in the US. Yet here in Uganda, I see that all the time.
- As has been expressed by so many people, it pains me to see how divided our country has become politically and even more so, how that divide has come into the Church as well. I pray for people to be able to learn from one another's wisdom, not hate those who have different beliefs, and learn how to listen well to each other.
- I see the US becoming more self-focused and caring less about others than we have in the past. What makes us great, in my view, is how much we have given and helped the rest of the world. I hope we will continue to do so.
- I'm concerned that freedom of speech and belief is being eroded in the US, as well as the rights of Christians and churches.
- I sometimes feel like American culture is dead-set on exploring, accepting, and celebrating new kinds of sexual immorality.
- I'm concerned about the growing attachment to technology and smartphones and people not being able to handle being disconnected for a day or a week (sometimes hard for me too even here).
I'm very grateful for Uganda as well and the opportunity I have to live here. It's not a perfect country either, but I love the life I have. But this post was not about Uganda, so you can read more about Uganda in other posts. Happy Independence Day!