What America Means to Me

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”

– Miriam Adeney

When I reflect on the major holidays over the past few years, I have to first recall in which country I lived at the time. Over the past year alone I spent Thanksgiving in Kenya, Christmas in Mexico, New Years in Japan, and July 4th in America. Each so different, yet I spent quality time with amazing people in each. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep things straight, but I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.

July 4th always makes me think about what America means to me. Growing up, it was my unrivaled promise land. I spent two months here every summer free from school, going to camp and hanging out with grandparents and relatives who spoiled me. Returning to Japan at the end of summer meant going back to classrooms and homework and real life. Under those conditions, who wouldn’t love America?

In Kenya, I got to learn about what America meant to Africans. When I chose to tell the short version of my story, simply saying I was American, people responded in one of two ways. Like clockwork, wealthier Kenyans would respond by saying I should find a nice girl, marry her and stay forever. Others (generally poorer) were more perplexed at my living in Kenya, asking why I would leave the place they could only dream about living in to come to Kenya. Why would I give that up for this? I often wondered the same thing, especially when the power went out for 24 hours or someone showed up 2 hours late to a meeting. Yet I thought the response was revealing. Africa is a really nice place if you have money. Like the European masses, it’s only the poor that dream about building a better life in a new world. Though it has its flaws, America has remained the symbol of opportunity and a better life for people across the world. Other countries are achieving the same level of prosperity, but haven’t attained America’s unique status as a symbol of hope.

This brings me to what America means to me. I actually enjoy hearing the blanket statement “America is the best country in the world” because I don’t think it makes much sense. First, I think about how subjective that statement is: it really depends on who you ask. Second, I wonder how you can judge the best country in the world without having visited them all. There are some pretty cool places out there. Finally, I think, “The best country for what?” For food? Again, subjective but I’d go with Thailand. Highest standard of living? Norway. Most hot dog eating contest wins? America.

What a place means to you is totally personal. Do I think America is the best country in the world across all factors we could ever study? I don’t know, it’s possible. I’m not sure why we need to label it the best in the world though. I love certain aspects of this country, like its natural beauty, freedom, opportunities, people. I love certain things about other places too though and that doesn’t need to take away from the fact that I love this country. Like anywhere else, there’s good and bad and it’s full of broken people who ultimately need God. That’s my perspective on America this July 4th. Happy Birthday 🙂

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15 thoughts on “What America Means to Me

  1. It’s funny you should post something like this. I just left America for 1.5 years on July 4th to live in Shanghai and I’ve been having a lot of the same feelings. I think the hardest part so far has been feeling out of place and missing feeling like I belong, which America is really good for.

    • True, I’m sure that would be tough in a place like Shanghai. I grew up in Japan for 16 years and although I feel at home, I will never be Japanese. Doesn’t mean there aren’t great things about those places too though

      • I just passed my first year mark here! Shanghai has been tiring, but I’ve been managing to manage the crowds a lot better than I had when I first moved here 🙂

  2. I like the first part of the post with the Miriam Adeney paragraph, that is how I feel. Living in Thailand for the past 20 years, when we visit England for the summer vacation. I feel like a nomad. Like the post you made.

  3. When I live in Mexico, Mexicans would also reply with the same astonished, “If you’re American, why are you living here.?” They thought everything was better in the states. I would usually shrug my shoulders and say I loved the laid back attitude, the water, the sky, the people. But they still wouldn’t understand. American was to them the ultimate prize.

  4. Some great ideas and thoughts. I’ve left my homeland (North Yorkshire, UK) thirty years ago to live in many different countries. I still have an affinity for ‘home’, which it will always be deep down, but I also have grown to love so many different places, people and cultures and experienced different forms of spirituality. The world has become in many ways so much more accessible to those with money or means to travel, but of those that do ‘travel’ I wonder at their different perceptions and and what they are prepared to experiences when they judge and compare other places to ‘home’?

  5. Daniel–Thank you for sharing the M Adeney quote and your marvelous insight and experiences–your family is sensational, so I truly understand how you arrived at awesome..
    Well Done, Mate…..and just keep on, keepin’ on……
    Now about dad & Razors??
    I would happily school you and dad in the Challenge……EXCEPT I can’t:):)
    Maybe Federer will come play?

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