Thankful and humble to be an American

by Barnabas Piper
Posted on Tuesday, July 3, 2012, at 5:11 pm

Tomorrow we celebrate our nation's independence, a day for patriotism and celebration, a day to show our all-Americanism. I intend to fully participate in the festivities by taking my daughters to a parade complete with color guard, fire trucks, floats, tumblers, and tossed candy followed by a classic cookout with friends and family. It will, Lord willing, be a wonderful Fourth of July celebration.

But, contrary to the insidious song and sentiment of the day, I am not "proud to be an American." To be precise, I am not proud because I am an American. I am not proud because pride is for those things that we accomplish, those achievements for which we deserve credit. How did I end up an American? I was born one, and I would be a fool to be proud of something for which I can take no credit. My Americanism was granted to me and is a gift, not a status.

That does not make me unpatriotic. Patriotism ought not to be a prideful touting of our country's greatness but rather a joyful exclamation of it. My parade going and grilled-meat eating are not hypocritical. They are expressions of thankfulness. I am thankful.

For one thing, I am thankful for so many of my fellow Americans-my military family members and those with whom they served, those industrious and ingenious workers who make our country go, those who have traveled and toiled to become Americans, and the entrepreneurs who continue to expand the borders of thought and technology. I am certainly proud of those Americans.

Also, I am thankful to be an American. And there is much greatness for which to be thankful. We have unparalleled freedoms, ease of living, educational opportunities, and access to information and knowledge. Our flag waving should be a celebration of goodness, not a flaunting of our betterness. We were given these good gifts, even as we have worked to sustain them.

In all, we ought to be humbled on this Independence Day. This American life we lead is an undeserved opportunity, and for most of us, one that we did not choose. We did not find it, neither did we claim the right to it-we were given it as a gift. Even those who did strive to gain their freedom by becoming Americans entered into this gift of opportunity.

This great nation of which we are a part is our home, yes, but it is a resource, too. It is something that we are tasked to steward and care for and utilize for good. It is not a rank, a status, or a high standing in the world. But it is great. To be given the opportunity to live, work, and serve in such a place as this should not lead us to gloat but to rejoice. It ought not make us proud, but rather it should humble us in thanksgiving.

Barnabas Piper

Barnabas is a former WORLD correspondent.

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