I used to tell my children when they were young that you can’t appreciate the good things in life if you never experience some of the bad.   A recent event served to remind me of how true that is for all of us.

We hired a car service to drive us from our home to the airport.  Our driver was a man who had immigrated to this country 18 years ago from Armenia.  I struck up a conversation with him that lasted the entire trip.   He explained that Armenia has had a troubled history and for many years was under the harsh rule of the Communist Soviet Union.

It was not the history of Armenia that fascinated me so much as how happy and proud he was to be living in America.   He explained that it took him many years to fully realize how free and open our country is when compared to his homeland.    He related stories of oppression that made living in constant fear and uncertainty a way of life in his country.   I could only imagine what it would be like living under those conditions.

Certainly, there have been groups that have suffered severe and oppressive treatment during our country’s history.   Even today, we are not a perfect society and there is still cause for protest and change; however, many of us take it for granted that we have the freedom to protest and demand change.   In many ways, we take all of our freedoms for granted since we have never experienced what it is like to live in a closed and repressive society.

We may like to say we feel oppressed sometimes depending on whether a liberal or conservative is in the White House; however, the vast majority of us have never experienced the real thing.  I am talking about the Jackboots stomping down the street, tanks rumbling through the public squares, and the secret police knocking on your door in the middle of the night to whisk you away to parts unknown kind of oppression.   We have been spared that kind of nightmarish existence.

As I listened to this man explain how much he appreciated the freedoms we enjoy and the opportunities for a better life that freedom brings, particularly, when compared to the plight of his and many other countries I started to also feel a greater appreciation for the freedoms and opportunities we all too often take for granted.

So, as we complain about the things we find wrong with our country let’s also be mindful that when compared to most of the rest of the world we are truly fortunate to be living in such an exceptional country.