C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
In the marathon of life, not everyone has the same starting line or the same finish line. Many folks never finish; some are faster and some are slower. We wear different running shoes, if not barefoot, and some may not have anyone or anything awaiting them at the support tents along the way.
We are born into different families, unique circumstances and varying socioeconomic conditions. Fortune favors the bold, but the risk of being penniless can be a powerful motivator.
Regardless of one’s status in life, being an American is better than winning any jackpot.
Contrary to what your parents or teachers told you, you cannot be anything you want to be. A dwarf cannot be a professional basketball player. Conversely, a football player cannot be a jockey. However, in this country there are unlimited, but not infinite, opportunities for those who work and study hard to achieve their goals.
You don’t have to be a star athlete or an honor student in high school to succeed in life. Many of us are late bloomers. Those of us who procrastinated often kick ourselves in the rear for not striving in our earlier years to be that star athlete or on the principal’s list. (My principal had a list; I was on it, but not for academic achievements).
For those of us who disembark from the journey-of-life train from time to time, there is still hope. We can jump back on it and continue our trek. This is your personal train. You’re not trying to surpass anyone except yourself. You and you alone are responsible for your own successes and failures.
Every day, thousands of folks come to our country, legally and illegally, because of the American dream and its opportunities. Our history is replete with stories of refugees who immigrate, learn our language and later surpass their native-born peers.
Sixteen-year-old Huan Nguyen fled South Vietnam in 1975 as Saigon was falling to the communist regime of North Vietnam. Seven years earlier, Nguyen’s parents and five siblings were slain by the Viet Cong. Nguyen sustained several wounds during his family’s massacre but escaped to an uncle’s house, where he remained with his new family until they fled to a refugee camp and then to America.
Nguyen and his relatives were sponsored by a military family and eventually settled in Oklahoma.
Nguyen studied hard and obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. He was commissioned as a naval officer in 1993.
Nguyen’s world fell apart before he was 10 years old. He didn’t let tragedy or his socioeconomic status deter him. He became a determined and successful American.
Everyone cannot be an electrical engineer or a military officer, but we will always need police officers, plumbers and other skilled workers, schoolteachers and columnists (of course).
As a country, we have matured and adapted better than any other nation. For those rearview-mirror pessimists who only see the unpleasant, yes, America had slavery, a Civil War and other adversities.
Our founding fathers were Christians and parlayed their beliefs, hard work and fortunes into our nation’s beginnings. Our nation has flaws, as people do (especially us Christians), but we won two world wars, freed millions from tyranny and enjoy a robust economy with unlimited chances for success. We Americans also provide for those who are unable, and even unwilling, to take care of themselves.
We have much to be thankful for this holiday season. Nevertheless, not all can be rejoiceful. If anyone is discouraged or depressed, please reach out for help. C.S. Lewis also said, “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”
We should ignore the incessant political infighting and bickering and meticulously count our blessings.
We are an exceptional country with exceptional folks. Just ask newly promoted Rear Adm. Huan Nguyen.
Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.