Sunday, October 12, 2008

View of America

Gov. Palin recently made a statement about Barak Obama that gives me pause. "He is not a man who sees America like you and I do." Her statement made me think about how I see America. It also makes me wonder how she feels that we could see it the same way.

We all view America through the lens of our life experience. Growing up in the wilds of Alaska as a gun toting white woman certainly gives you a different perspective. Don't believe me? Ask any gun toting white woman in America's urban wilderness for her view and compare it with statements made by Gov. Palin. They probably won't be the same. In the same vein of thought, Sen. Obama will certainly have a different view of life than will a black man of the same age who is a sharecropper in North Carolina.

Yet, none of the scenarios I just mentioned have anything to do with my view of America. How about yours?

To me, America is the best country in the world. We're smart. We're savvy and strong. I believe that we can still expect great things after we get through this rocky patch we're in now. No other country has this huge diversity of people, landscape and ambition that America does and I positively love it!

But, I know that there are some who are on the verge of giving up on their view of America as a great nation. I see this everyday and it makes me sad.

I work for a nonprofit on the edge of a metropolitan area in rural East Tennessee. From our tiny office in a run down, 100 year old building we serve parts of three counties. From our parking lot you can be at the mall in about 20 minutes. In 30 minutes you can be in a major tourist area filled with lights, shopping and fun. It's a great place to work and I feel very fortunate to be here.

But that's my perspective. Yesterday, I helped others with a different view.

A mom came to see me. She has children and was asking about a food box. A few weeks ago she had a job. Now, she has nothing but bills. Her teenage daughter is the only breadwinner right now. Her fast food job after school won't go far enough. The mother hasn't been able to find work fast enough. Her daughter wants to quit school and work full time. She's mad because mom doesn't want her to throw away her future.

A teenager came by to see me. She's threatened suicide recently and is just barely hanging on. She openly wondered what the future is going to be like for her. Her mom used to have a job too. Fortunately, this kid comes from a great family who is supportive of each other. They are doing everything they can to make it through the crisis they are in. I have high hopes for this family and hopefully, they do too.

Our youth coordinator made a statement this that struck me. She coordinates the juvenile offenders and youth volunteers who work with us each summer. According to her, the biggest obstacle in these kids lives is the lack of excitement about the future. It jarred her optimistic outlook so much that she vowed to help each kid find something to believe in.

We have several more weeks to go until the election is over.

I would encourage both parties to follow the example of our youth coordinator. Put the campaign rhetoric and negativity aside. Give us all something to believe in for the good of America.