Written by Imei Hsu, BSN-RN, MAC-LMHC, Artist
As a daughter of immigrant parents, I often reflect on what it means to be American. My parents put careful thought into what it would mean for their children to be raised in America, and beyond their desire to experience the “American Dream,” they also hoped each of us would find our place in society through education, successful careers, and relationships. For the most part, each of us would say that we have achieved those dreams. But let me add two more. I believe the exercise of two actions — voting and giving — are the epitome of what it means to be American. And if you are an American by birth or by citizenship process, I want to encourage you to exercise these American privileges to vote and give today.
Go and Vote
Today is Election Day, and if you have not already voted, you still have time today to turn in your ballot! If you do not know where to turn it in, you can get that information on the Internet. Do a Google search, and type in the search box the name of your county and state, and the words “ballot drop box”, and you should get a listing of your local voting locations and official ballot collection sites. Please do not hand your ballot to anyone else; make sure you place the ballot in the box yourself after you have sealed it.
Recently a friend said he did not want to vote because he did not approve of either presidential candidate. My response: that’s fine. But what about all the other bills, referendums, and local county and state elected officers that need your vote? Your vote directly affects who is elected by popular vote, which bills are canned and which go forward, whether people who are in same-sex relationships can legally marry, and whether marijuana can be legalized and regulated for use.
Only American citizens can vote, including our citizens overseas. Our country houses many who live and work within our borders but cannot vote because they are not citizens. Your right to vote is a privilege, and I encourage you to use it.
Ed. note: did you know that the Android Marketplace and iTunes have an app to help you follow the WA state elections? Click –> http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/iphone.aspx or search your smartphone app store for “WA state elections results”. It’s free!
If you travel around the world as much as I have, you quickly pick up the sentiment people feel about Americans in general: we’re friendly, fun, adventurous, and can only speak one language! One of the more positive reputations we have as a country is that in a crisis, we give, and we give generously. I believe it is another American privilege that we possess: the power and compassion to give when it’s needed.
Of course, giving has everything to do with being human and humane, and nothing directly to do with being American. Anyone can give. What is impressive is how America has responded to some of the worst disasters around the world, and how Americans have reacted to our own crises with the economic downturn reverberating here and around the world. For every nasty story published about American greed, you can find many more stories about giving, compassion, sharing, and caring for one another. If you don’t agree, take five minute to do a search on the Internet, and pay attention in your community for evidence of giving and helping. It is there.
Whether you are spiritual, religious, or atheist, most of us will agree that the history of this nation involves a strong connection to the land and a response-ability to its neighbors inside and outside its borders. When Hurricane Sandy blew through the Caribbean and the eastern shore, the damage it left behind is estimated to be up to $50 billion. Loss of life has crept past 100, and hundreds of thousands remain without power to their homes and businesses. It was spookier than spooky to see images of well-known parts of New York submerged in darkness. New Jersey’s Atlantic City looks like it became a nightmarish Venice overnight. When one part of our nation is hurting, the other parts must respond.
I am personally cheered to hear that Canada sent electricians to help restore power in the areas hardest hit. For the rest of us who do not possess these skills, the most important thing you can do is make a donation to a reputable charity, such as the American Red Cross. Disaster response organizations will receive the money much faster if you give directly to their website than if you text money (the process time is longer, possibly by weeks in some cases) or wait to throw a fundraiser a month from now (throw that fundraiser, but also consider a gift now). Your money will be quickly converted to purchase and distribute the most urgent needs for shelter, food, emergency care, and other needs. If you manage a blog or website, you may ask permission to place a donate button or link for the months of November and December to encourage others to give.
If all you do today and this week is vote and give, you will be living the real American dream. For those of you who are financially hard-pressed and cannot give at this time, encouraging others who can give is another response. You don’t have to be wealthy to help.
From myself, my colleagues, and Associates, please share this post with others, along with our thanks for your part in making America a great place to live.