Independence Day, celebrated on the Fourth of July, is the federal holiday set aside to reflect on what has transpired in the 235 years since we severed our relationship with the Kingdom of Great Britain. Our long weekend is generally celebrated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, baseball games at family reunions. The news is peppered with political speeches and photo ops for local and national politicians.
The tone of the celebrations seems different this year, because from Sea to Shining Sea, our circumstances in 2011 are different. We have flooded farmlands in the North, tornado-decimated cities in the South, hundreds of thousands of acres of scorched land in the West. Nuclear plants in New Mexico and Nebraska and New Jersey are tottering on the edge of a disaster. The number of unemployed persons (13.9 million) and the unemployment rate (9.1 percent) has remained essentially unchanged for months. The national debt, at more than $14 trillion, is choking our economy and crushing the future of future generations. And we still have more than 140 thousand American troops in the deserts of the world fighting faceless enemies without clearly defined outcomes. All that makes for a somber holiday.
Many cities have cancelled their expensive fireworks displays, stating “it seems like the right thing to do” in light of budget cuts, layoffs and closures. Our national government should be doing the same thing. A report that came out this week called “The Cost of US Wars since 9/11”, states,
In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the al-Qaida leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks, the spending on the conflicts totaled between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion. Those numbers will continue to soar, when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. These estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.”
So, what can we do?
I truly believe in what Napoleon Hill said decades ago, “you get what you think about most of the time.” What if we changed our future by focusing on what we want for our life, for our country and from our politicians, instead of focusing on continually negative news? What if we stopped being absorbed with what we don’t want, and instead believed in our ability to create want we do want? What if we worked collectively to raise the spirit and outlook of our family and friends, our nation and our planet through optimism, happy thoughts and your personal form of prayer?
To again acknowledge Napoleon Hill, his timeless book was titled, “Think and Grow Rich”, not “Work hard and Die Poor.” What if we actively sought to participate in upbeat activities and avoided pesimistic friends, colleagues and family members?
Where to begin?
How about starting with a few good and inspirational books, even if you only read a few pages a day. Join organizations that make you feel good – a garden club, a rowing club, a travel club. I’ve joined the Global Information Network; it has changed my life and my outlook in countless ways. Volunteer a few hours a week at a senior center, a day care or a animal shelter. Take a leap and explore new hobbies outside your comfort zone – ballroom dancing, fencing, sign language. Find a hero or you can look up to — and become someone’s hero by finding someone to mentor.
On this Independence Day, a reflection on what our Founders intended for our country is in order. But much more importantly, take a few minutes to choose activities that make you happy. Washington’s politicos have gotten us to where we are; it is up to us, as individuals, to chart the course of where we’re going.
These solutions are free! The only cost is the time set aside to visualize a phenomenally good outcome for the year ahead. Happy Holiday!