Do you know what you have? I do. I have a charming wife, wonderful kids, a good job that won’t make me rich but pays the bills and I enjoy working it. I have a good home in a good neighborhood, with couches, chairs, beds, dressers, televisions and computers, all in various states of damage and disrepair. I also have supportive friends and a testimony of Jesus Christ that provides me great comfort in times of stress and trial.
However, is that all I have? Isn’t there more? According to three men I know, I have a lot more.
A few years ago I was chatting on the state of world affairs with a man who had immigrated from Turkey, and had found success in the hospitality industry. He volunteered the following: “ You Americans don’t know what you have here. I see so many workers in America who are lazy and complain about life. Back in Turkey it is very difficult to get ahead in life regardless of how hard you work, because of your station. If you don’t the money for bribes, you can’t ahead. Here in America, however, if I just work hard and make good decisions, I can be successful. I love this country.”
Another man who immigrated from Russia I know only from watching him on the television show “Undercover Boss.” He was a night shift delivery driver for 7-11 stores. The hidden camera caught him saying something like the following to his temporary intern, who was really the company CEO: “I love this country. You Americans don’t know what you have here. Back in Russia, I look for job but can’t find one because I don’t know anybody. You have to know people. But here in America, I come to work on time and I work hard, so I can take of my family. This is not so in Russia. This is a great country.”
Finally, a few years ago I was talking with a Korean lawyer friend who was attending an international law school seminar program for one year in the United States. He explained to me “This is why I love America. In Korea, I have no choice about the clothes I wear to work. I have to wear certain color suit with white shirt and red tie. It is like a uniform in our law practice. I thought that was how law was supposed to be practiced, so when I came to America and started attending the law school seminars, I stressed out on what I was supposed to wear. Finally I decided to take a risk and just come to law school wearing a nice pair of jeans and I white shirt with an open collar. I was surprised that no one really cared how I was dressed as I walked through the campus and listened to class lectures. The feeling of freedom from a regimented dress code was exhilarating and liberating. You Americans don’t know what you have here. I love this country.”
I think that all three of these men were trying to tell me that the pursuit of happiness, (not the guarantee of it) is what makes us American and makes this country lovable. They described it as the freedom to work hard and be successful. Apparently it is also something many of us don’t know we have. I think that this Wednesday, as we celebrate the founding of our country, I’ll add that to my list of what I have in the opening paragraph.