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Happiness and the American Dream

July 31, 2010

In the past, the cliche "The American Dream" meant financial prosperity, luxury and riches. However, the generation emerging seems to be, in this writer's estimation, embracing a new and improved American dream.

Remember, this generation is the one that watched the 9/11 tragedy over and over on television as little children. This brings understanding to what makes them tick. My generation (I'm at the tail end of the baby boomers) was sadly dubbed, "The Me Generation." Not much of a testament to us, right? Times have changed and I am more than pleased at the changes that seem to be happening around us.

America has always been a hub of opportunity, and we have been a dream to many in other countries as folks have made their way here in hopes of getting what we have in the way of freedom and economic opportunities, as well as contentment. The American Dream in days gone is depicted by some sort of material wealth and financial security. However, I believe the new American dream depicts something far more meaningful: altruism.

Wikipedia states, "Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions."

The new generation, as well as many others, are getting the fact that life is not "all about me." The past decades of a thriving stock market and financial gain gave birth to selfishness and lent a false sense of security. That security ended when 911 took place, the stock market basically crashed, and everything we thought secure was not. Now, we reflect and realize that life is more than money, contentment is more than houses and cars, and happiness runs from us when we seek after it.

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, wrote a book I love. It is titled, "Just Give Me Jesus." Anne has lived far from an easy life. She has had more than her share of trials. She came to realize what many of us have - that life worth living is found only in him.

I have watched in awe this summer at the literally thousands of young people who have traveled for mission trips in the U.S. and foreign lands. I smile as I see them talk of a higher purpose, a greater calling and a mission for their lives. My 20-something daughter and friends are outraged and burdened to the point of action over human trafficking/slavery.

Human trafficking has reached an all-time high in our country as well as throughout the world. Shocking as it may be, Columbus, Ohio, is the No. 1 center for human trafficking/slavery in the U.S. Human slavery in the United States at this moment generates more income than Fortune 500 companies. However, people aren't sitting still on this knowledge wishing that someone else would step up to the plate. No, there are thousands doing their part. My daughter, as well as many others, feel called to rescue, to show them Christ, and to rehabilitate those trapped in such a lifestyle. The new American dream is this and more. Alleviating others' suffering is a huge part of the new American dream.

Being happy with less stuff is another part of the new American dream. I think it is the first time in my lifetime that I have sensed a contentment among people as a whole. Instead of "What can life give to me?," I am hearing, "What can I give to life?" Instead of hearing, "What can I buy to look successful?," I am hearing, "What can I do without in order to have more time with my family?" The tragedy of 9/11, as well as the war in the Middle East, the oil spill and other events have brought perspective and many think it is short-lived. I do not. I think we are forever changed.

The new American dream says: Just give me Jesus. Give my family enough. I am moved to action to alleviate someone else's suffering. I am happy, content and I have a brand new American dream.

Here is a sample of the song: "Just Give Me Jesus."

In the morning when I rise,

Give me Jesus

You can have all this world

Just give me Jesus,

When I am alone,

Give me Jesus

Song Description:

"This is an old hymn that spoke to my heart in huge way. The words are so simple yet very profound in nature. I want everything in my life to always center around Christ. I'm tired of the distractions that lay hold of me sometimes. I just want my first love always to be Jesus. Colossians 3:1-4 states, 'Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life in now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.'" - Jeremy Camp (contemporary Christian artist)

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and the grief counselor/bereavement coordinator and a chaplain for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail or call 304-823-3925, ext. 136.)



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