Sunday, October 16, 2016

Great and Good

Here's something to consider as we enter the final three weeks of the most negative presidential campaign in my lifetime. . .  the United States of America is a wonderful country. That's right, you heard me. You and I live in an amazing country filled with great and good people who do great and good things every single day. Just last week. . .

On Monday, I played in a charity golf tournament put on by the Tuckahoe Kiwanis Club. I was joined by 79 other men and women who each paid $150 to enter and spent more money buying raffle tickets to raise even more money. Several dozen local businesses sponsored holes and donated prizes for raffle winners. All of this charity work was pulled off by a local service organization with only nine active members. The beneficiary of all this work was a local non-profit who works with abused children in our county. The leader of that organization gave a three minute talk to all of us describing the work. At the end of the afternoon, $10,000 had been raised. Each member of the Kiwanis Club donated hundreds of unpaid hours to the effort. This sort of thing happens every day, all over my amazingly philanthropic country.

Yesterday, Pam and I drove over to a brand new small business called The 21hundred. It's a coffee shop which serves gelato. It's owned by some old friends of ours, who later in life have decided to take a chance. It's a family affair, all hands on deck, fifteen hour days, six days a week. The place was packed with smiling faces on this, their grand opening. The coffee and gelato was delicious. They want their coffee shop to be a place where people come not just for coffee, but also for conversation and friendship. There will be no charge for any residual goodness and joy that might break out. I have determined to drive out of my way to The 21hundred the next time I'm craving a cappuccino. I want them to succeed, don't you?

This morning, Pam and I drove up to Graves Mountain with my sister and her husband to pick some apples and have a picnic lunch creek-side. The place was packed, thousands of people. There was a middle school-aged boy stirring a giant pot of steaming apple butter. There were craft booths selling every sort of American knick-knackery. There was funnel cake and apple butter donuts, and a huge display of something called Uncle Dave's Kettle Korn. We bought apples and browsed the shops. I saw a 300 pound man wearing a t-shirt that said, "I Beat Anorexia." We ate homemade sausage and kale soup that my sister had made while we watched kids playing in the mountain stream babbling along a few feet from our picnic spot. Within ear shot, a bluegrass band was covering Earl Scruggs. The beautiful tan upright bass thumped the notes in perfect rhythm. The guy playing the banjo looked to be in his 80's. We had driven 71 miles to pick apples but instead found America, big, generous, beautiful America.

All of this was unremarkable. None of what I have described will be a surprise to any of you because all of you recognize it. This is what kind of country we live in, one that we take for granted too often. Yes, there are Khardashian issues in our country. Yes, our politics are a mess, and there are inequality and racism problems that seem intractable. But, we are a great and good people who, when the chips are down, come up big time after time. There are more Good Samaritans per capita here than any place on earth. Despite all of the problems with immigration today, as a nation we have always welcomed the stranger. If we didn't we wouldn't still be the go-to destination of  teaming masses yearning to be free for over a hundred years. People aren't squeezing through the fence to get to Mexico, after all. Nobody is jumping on rafts trying to make it into Cuba.

So, I for one am proud of my country. I'm aware of its flaws, frustrated by its politics, and annoyed by some of its culture. But, I still love it and feel lucky to have been born in such a place. That will never change. . . especially on November 8.