There seems to be a lot of talk today about being myself and not giving into the pressures of the world constantly trying to make me into something else, trying to get me to buy into the American Dream.
The pressures of the world are no greater anywhere else than right here in the good old U.S.A. America has built an entire economy based on people wanting to be like someone else. The clothes I wear, car I drive, movies I see, songs I buy, house I live in all pretty much reflect the fact that someone in corporateville has expected me to want to be like everyone else. It is defined as the American Dream, everyone’s dream has become my dream or will I let it?
In Joplin, MO on May 22, 2011, many such dreams, if they existed, were dashed in a few seconds. A category EF-5, the deadliest single U.S. tornado since modern record-keeping began 61 years ago, hit this small southwest Missouri town. As of July 10, 159 people have died, according the City of Joplin. The town is 30 percent gone, 8,000 structures and houses ripped to shreds, pieces of the American dream scattered across three states.
If I had lived in Joplin, before supper on Sunday May 22, I might have been tempted to define myself in terms of the consummate American Dream. After supper, I would never again define myself that way.
Who I am, who I really am, shines through after such disaster hits. It reminds me of the woman who showed the TV crew where she and her son clung to each other in a closet while the tornado ripped their home, car and belongings from around them.
The reporter asked, “How are you?” She said, “We are good. We have each other. That’s all that matters.” American Dream instantly redefined.
In the aftermath of devastation, crews from across the United States came to Joplin’s rescue and still are helping. Several teams from our church about a five-hour drive away have helped.
One thing one of our crews, along with other groups, did was pick up insulation blow across 1o acres a farmer owned. If the cattle ate the insulation they would die and the farmer would lose his livelihood. The elderly man cried grateful tears.
I wish I had the physical strength and stamina like those who have helped in a variety of ways. For me, one of the best things I can do is help others see the truth of this situation. To me, it points out the dichotomies presented in society today, those within myself even.
I tout my individualism and yet pride myself on everything I have that is just like everyone else. I say I want to be unique and yet I live in luxury compared to the rest of the world. I desire to be myself and end up evaluating who I am in terms of how much I am like everyone else.
While I am racking up possessions in my American Dream, I shudder to think, what will it take to help me see what really matters? What disaster of mind, body or soul will it be that helps define true value in my life? Those true values of God, family, love, joy, truth?
According to Wikipedia, a definition of spiritual identity is “a persistent sense of self that addresses ultimate questions about the nature, purpose, and meaning of life, resulting in behaviors that are consonant with the individual’s core values.”
When my life demonstrates the core values I say I believe in, then and only then, will I really be myself. That is all I want people to think, feel or say when they hear my name. That is legacy.
Quote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Writing Prompt: One definition of legacy is what someone feels, thinks and says when they hear your name. What are you doing today to build the legacy you want? (Author: Tim Belber)