While I intended to post this yesterday, the day got away from me. However, it actually may represent the sentiment more by not being posted on September 11.

One of my favorite books is Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. One of his essays poses an interesting question about Americans’ take on patriotism, prior to September 11 occurring. He sent an e-mail to various acquaintances and offered them a choice: if given the choice to date two equally appealing people, with one described as “very patriotic,” who would you choose? Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents viewed patriotism as a big negative. They associated it with a love for “Ted Nugent,” “Robin Williams’ movies” and a lack of intelligence. Only one person responded to the contrary – his point being that our generation is too focused on being cool, rather than being a generation that accomplishes anything worthwhile or important. In other words, patriotism isn’t viewed as “cool,” so people didn’t view it a positive attribute.

Patriotism certainly didn’t resonate with me at the time; to be honest, it just wasn’t something I thought much about. Rather it was something I took for granted. I, too, would have fallen into the first category. I can blame my years in the South for this stereotype, but the word “patriotism” automatically conjured images of fireworks shows soundtracked by Lee Greenwood and that “I’m proud to be an American” song. After 9-11, patriotism took on a whole new meaning for me.

We need to put aside our political and religious differences; we need to disregard our feelings about the war. We need to be grateful for the brave people who serve in our military, our police departments and our fire departments who protect us on a daily basis. Be as proud of your country, if not more so, than you are of your individual heritage. New Yorkers take so much staunch pride in being Irish, in being Italian, in being from New York – that we forget the big picture. Be proud that you are American and that despite all of our complaints and problems, we have it pretty good here. We have it pretty good, thanks to the people who make sacrifices for us.

While we can do our best to honor the people who chose to put their life on the line to save others on September 11, do not forget the people who signed on for nothing more than an ordinary day – businessmen, fathers, secretaries and janitors who expected nothing more than an average Tuesday. Think of the many people who left their homes without saying goodbye or “I love you” to their spouses and children. Life can be cut short in seconds; be sure to pursue what fulfills you and let people know they matter. Never leave angry; never leave without saying “I love you.”

After September 11, everyone was looking for a way to help. There weren’t enough places to keep the bottled water donations that were rolling in. Why did people stop helping? We are all guilty of falling back into normalcy. We forget how many people need our help on a daily basis. Donate money, or at the very least, give your time. Find something that matters to you and help make a difference in the world. Think of soldiers that are overseas and their families who are here in the States. Use your abundant resources to show them that they matter and you can make a small sacrifice for the one they are making for you.

September 11 is just one day out of the year. Make an effort to put aside your individual beliefs for the common good – it will make a difference. Show people why you’re proud to be an American (and not in the Lee Greenwood “I’m wearing an American flag windbreaker” way) and that we care about other people. Honor people who make sacrifices for your safety and freedom. Live your life in a way that fulfills you; you never know when it will be taken away. Show your grace by helping others who don’t have what you do. You never realize how good you have it until you see what others don’t have. Love and respect others; show your family and friends that they are important to you.

God bless America.

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