Today is the 4th of July

Jul 4
Sierra Vista, Arizona Fireworks Butterfield Photography_MG_0161

Today is the 4th of July.  And back where I come from people had the day off…some even had the whole week off of work enjoying backyard barbeques, family outings, fireworks and every kind of fun.  They play patriotic songs and people dress up in red, white and blue. For the most part, it’s just one big, rambunctious party.

Here in Afghanistan, where I am currently working, I don’t get the day off.  There’s no beer, there’s no barbeque and, god willing, no fireworks (although I wouldn’t have minded seeing the show my good friend and photographer Robert Butterfield captured).  It’s just another day at the office for me.  In fact I plain forgot it was the 4th of July.  Until, while teaching a class this morning, one of my colleagues in attendance looked at me with surprise and delight, and said, “Oh!  I almost forgot!  Happy Independence Day!”

The full measure of his sincerity caught me off guard, and made me smile.  I told him thank you.  And we continued with our class.  But the moment stayed with me, and the feeling took me back a bit.

See, my colleague who made this comment is a gentleman from Kosovo.  In fact, 92% of the people I work with come from Eastern Europe, India, the Philippines, or some other place outside the US of A.  This is something I’ve grown accustomed to since I’ve lived and worked abroad since 2004.  But there are still moments like the one with Amir today that make me stop, breathe deep…and appreciate where I  am and what I’m experiencing in that moment.

Amir’s comment took me back.  A few years ago a dear friend of mine, also from Kosovo, wrote a beautiful letter that he sent to all of his American colleagues.  His letter made me cry, and frankly still does.  I can’t explain it, and I don’t think Ardian would mind, so I will simply let you read it:

Dear Friends,

I congratulate you and the people of the United States of America on the occasion of the Fourth of July, the U.S. Independence Day.  The wishes of the freedom-loving Americans came to a conclusion in a single day and in one document: the Declaration of Independence.


It is evident that this document, which marked the birth of the leader of the free world, has had an enormous impact on the course of the world history and the growth of democracy.  As a result, the Independence Day of the United States of America is today a beacon of hope for many that aspire to be free. Indeed, it is a symbol of freedom, prosperity and hope.


People of the Kosovo are thankful to U.S. for coming to their aid at their darkest hour and bringing peace and freedom.  We join you with great respect and admiration in celebrating this momentous mark in the history of your country.  The birth of our own country was a result of the long struggle of the people of Kosovo for freedom and independence and the unprecedented support of the United States of America.


Appreciating the priceless contribution your country has made for the people of the Kosovo.


God bless the United States of America!
God bless our friends!

Thank you!

This is about as American as it gets


Though I’ve now spent half my life in a foreign country, it never ceases to amaze me how much more perspective I gain–

for better and for worse–when I look through the eyes of another at my own homeland, or my own people.  This is just one of the beauties of working with people from all over the world.  The warmth, compassion and empathy I find with people from every walk of life help me rediscover those little joys when I’m more like to become bogged down with little nuisances.

So if you’re lucky enough to be at a BBQ today, have one of whatever you’re having for me (unless it’s a beer, then have two).  But wherever you are, I hope you’ll find a quiet moment to reflect on how very fortunate you really are.


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