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Maybe It's Not As Bad as Some Think

Google the phrase "Death of the American Dream" and you will find links to various articles explaining in excruciating detail why the American dream is dead. Here are a few partial reasons that come to mind.

Unemployment - illegal immigration (and the resulting loss of jobs for blue collar workers) - Washington, DC and every politician in that town - political correctness - selfishness - Iphone technology - healthcare (If you like your doctor - you can keep your doctor - Oh really?) food stamps - (Does it alarm anyone that 46 million Americans are on food stamps?) - Ferguson.

Look at Ferguson and you would have to be blind to not see the ugliness of racism that still afflicts our country. But let's be honest. What also afflicts far too many Americans is poverty, a lack of education, and the absence of parents, teachers and mentors in the lives of young people. But more than anything, there is, for far too many, a lack of appreciation and gratitude for living in this country.

Those are just a few of the reasons why many believe the American Dream is dead and buried. But maybe not.

As an American Jew I am aware that 3 out of every 4 French Jews are seriously considering leaving France because of the anti-Semitism and violence of French society. France makes me realize how lucky I am to live here. France makes me realize that the American Dream is still alive.

In spite of all the issues I have just mentioned, America is still an exceptional place and it's all because of Americans like Clara and Marissa. Clara Catliota is 93 years old and she lives in a Cleveland retirement community. Clara and her fellow seniors have made an arrangement with 24 year old flautist Marissa Plank and two other music students from the nearby Cleveland Institute of Music, to provide beautiful music in exchange for rent free housing. In a great example of American ingenuity, Marissa and her fellow students get free housing and a built in audience to practice their skills, while 93 year old Clara and her fellow seniors get an injection of youthful energy and beautiful music.

According to Marissa, she is not simply playing for her rent money. She has found a home. As Marissa put it - "The people here have become my family. They are all my grandparents."

On the other hand, Clara, looks at these young people and says, "To live with young people and learn from them adds a new dimension to my life." In a nutshell, Clara and Marissa are two reasons why the American dream is far from dead.

We live in a country in which there are still people who are willing to learn and grow from each other. Who said that an older person ever stops learning and growing? Who said that a younger person can never benefit from being in the presence of the elderly? It's the Claras and Marissas of this country who keep the American dream alive.

There are many issues and challenges that face this country as 2015 unfolds. Perhaps the first stop in solving some of those challenges is to remember the power of gratitude. Sometimes, it's just a matter of remembering to say thank you.

Hodu L'Adonai Ki Tov

Ki L'Olam Chasdo

Praise and thank God, because God is goodness and God's love endures forever. (PS118)

Shalom,

Rabbi Ira Rothstein