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4th of July Story from ½ Way Around the World

July 3, 2012 in Inspiration, Thoughts, Wisdom

Last 4th of July I was in Da Nang City in Viet Nam.  I had just arrived a few weeks before with my dear partner Diane for our 4 month humanitarian adventure.  We had come to Da Nang to learn how the Vietnamese and their NGOs (international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations) partners were working with people with disabilities in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

We were sitting in the only truly American cafe/hang out I ever saw in Viet Nam.  I knew the place was filled with Americans so I stood up, reminded everybody that it was the 4th and started singing “God Bless America”.  Just about everybody in the place stood up and started singing with me.  As I looked around the room I saw that the singing had brought tears to the eyes of many of the singers, my own included.  After we had finished singing I noticed the feeling of festivity and excitement in the room.  It was magical.

I’ve had this experience before when I am far from America.  I find myself appreciating being an American like I rarely do when I am here at home like I am this year.  Partly it is because when I am far away I feel most clearly connected to my American heritage.  Even the few Aussies and Canadians who were there in the café looked and felt and sounded a little different from us folks from the USA.

I love being a human being.  I love seeing myself as being a part of the human family.  I am committed and determined to learning from and working out all of our differences as a race of people with all of my heart.  However, I am an American.  Other people can tell that I am from about ¼ of a mile away.  I learned that 40 or so years ago.  I don’t fight it anymore.  I don’t worry about losing my identity.  I don’t worry about the human race becoming a homogenous grey blob of people with no character or personality either. 

As a matter of fact recognizing that we are all living on the same planet, in the same world, as the human family makes it all the more important, and fun as well, to express the things that make us all different and unique as peoples.  For example we Americans have things like the 4th of July, and apple pie, bluegrass music and jazz, and basketball moves that nobody else has even thought of yet, etc., etc.

Oh!  By the way, enjoy the Olympics. They are another good example of how we are all so different and so much the same and of how these differences and similarities can be expressed and enjoyed.

Everybody knows that these are challenging times, times of change and war.  We are having a tough time finding common purpose.  I don’t have the answers but I do have a few broad suggestions.  We need to find nobility and selflessness, and ways to care for one another, our country, and our world that we can stand together on.  We need to talk to one another both as Americans and as the human citizens of the world.   Listening to, understanding, and respecting the thoughts of others as best we can has always been a sacred value to Americans.  If we don’t have these values operating strongly within us we will have a difficult time sustaining a strong independent democracy.  It’s as simple as that.

I remember last year that after we had sung as the people from the café dribbled out over the next few hours everyone, even the Canadians and Aussies, made a point to smile and nod and say a few words to one another as they left.  That’s what America wants to inspire folks.  We’re known for being warm and friendly, outgoing and free, willing and able to express ourselves without fear of retribution or violent response.  Let’s carry the banner forward, shall we?   



(This story represents the OASIS perspective for strengthening and expanding the essential values of open-mindedness and good-heartedness that all democracies need to encourage and cultivate if we are to truly represent the will of the people, and to succeed. JR)


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