We need a new American dream

I was driving home from work today listening to JayMac on KSL Newsradio talk about a picture of a 3-year-old girl. He talked about how looking at the picture broke his heart. He asked us to do something, all of us listening at that moment. He asked us to go to the app, look at the picture, and then ask ourselves what needs to change? What do our hearts tell us needs to be changed looking at that picture? Is there anyway to give this precious girl her innocence back?


You might think, looking at the picture, that she is playing hide and seek, or being silly in some other childlike way. She is practicing a lockdown drill at her preschool in case there is an attack and she is stuck hiding in a bathroom.

. . . . . . .

I’ve been looking at the picture ever since I got home, and asking myself the question Jay posed. What needs to change? Can anything give this precious girl her innocence back? I don’t know if I can answer the second question, but something came to my mind regarding the first.

We need a new American dream. The American dream, as I have understood it, is that every American, if he or she works hard enough, can “make it,” can succeed, can own a home and provide for a family. I am not criticizing that dream. It has served us well. It’s built a prosperous nation, but it may be killing us now.

We need a new American dream. This one says that every American, if he or she loves enough, can help his or her community be better. The question on our lips will no longer be, “What’s in it for me?” but “How can I help?” We will, as St. Francis prayed, seek not to be understood, but to understand.

We need a new American dream. I want my children to dream not of mansion homes and five car garages, but of enough time to serve others. I want them to define success as a life of service to others. Imagine if Americans were known around the world for their kindness and generosity, for offering their seats to the elderly, for sharing their time and money with enthusiasm, for not thinking of themselves first. Imagine if we were not known for bragging, but for excellence in service.

We need a new American dream, one in which our children’s games were based on how to help others, points for helping, thinking of how to help, lifting up, bringing back to life that which had been broken. I know how Pollyanna this sounds. It’s a name I’ve been called before, but I embrace it. This is the American dream I have, that I want for my children, not based on climbing any latter, making it to the top of any thing, or accumulating any amount of money or objects.

This is the American dream that looks at the Constitution and says – I am free. I do not need you to be less for me to be free. How can I serve you? Compromise is easy when the first question you ask is – how can I help?

I am an American with a dream of loving my neighbor, bringing the girl in this picture, and the girl living next door, and the one whose father is in jail, into our collective arms, and asking every person we meet – how can I serve you? There is no machismo in this dream. It will not do well at the box office. They will not write songs about it.

But it may save lives. In the long run.

That is my answer, Jay. Thank you for asking the question.

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