Actions That Strengthen Individuals and Families

It is often said, and usually true, that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.  In the case of a country, it is equally true that the stronger the families and individuals, the stronger the country.  That is what the actions in this section are about – actions that help individuals believe in themselves and actions that help families enable individual growth.

Be the best you can be.

Our country is made up of individuals or “The People” as Lincoln said in the Gettysberg Address. The strength of any group, whether it be a family or a team or a country, is only as good as the strength its members.

David Viscott was a brilliant, non-conventional psychiatrist; a nationally known radio talk show host; and author of 14 books on relationships. His description of the meaning of life is the best I’ve heard and the one that resonates with many.

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”
– David Viscott

Living a satisfying life and meaningful life can be accomplished by pursuing the “something” that is within us and the “something” we enjoy and are good at.” And like a snowflake, each of us is unique and each of us has a purpose here on earth.

Search for your gift and give into it. I have always liked the following quote.

“When you do something,
You should burn yourself up completely,
Like a good bonfire,
leaving no trace of yourself.”
– shunryu suzuki

There is great pressure in this country to be the person others want us to be.  It is not easy to be ourselves and to believe in ourselves – but it is immensely satisfying and, it is enough! Emerson said it well.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you is the hardest thing of all.”

Listen to our Curiosity song below!

Continue family and personal traditions.

The point here, of course, is not simply to make a list of personal and family traditions, but to continue them. However making a list of them is one way to ensure one continues them. Traditions are the activities that provide continuity throughout our lives and that link families and generations together.

Making a list of family and personal traditions can be a useful and fun way of ensuring you keep them alive. Traditions tend to be very personal.  In addition to providing continuity, they often are calming in that they give us a sense that “everything is still okay”. Sometimes they become, or represent, the “signature” of a person or family.

Make a list of your family and personal traditions – and then keep doing them!

Encourage your children to do a good deed and write the story of it as their Christmas or Holiday gift to you.

This action was suggested by a friend when we were discussing how materialistic Christmas has become.  She suggested that I ask my daughters to do a good deed and write a story of it as their Christmas present to me rather than a more traditional present.

Discuss with them the importance of helping others and treating all differences with respect.

Keep a gratitude journal.

A woman recently called the Dennis Prager radio talk show on his topic of happiness.  She told Dennis of something she did every day that contributed to her positive attitude.  She said that each morning she wrote down a few things she was thankful for.  She called it her “gratitude journal”.  Apparently, Oprah had popularized this idea on one of her shows.

Being grateful for what we have helps the country in a couple of ways.  First, it helps keep us in a positive and thankful appreciative frame of mind.  A positive frame of mind increases the chances we will spend more time “outside of ourselves” and concerned about the community.  Second, it increases the chances that we will:

  • recognize all that we have in this country that we would not have if we weren’t safe and free, and
  • take small “citizen actions” to help keep the country free.

How does one show gratitude? How does one appreciate what one has?

The first step is to identify the things one is grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal and writing about the things we are grateful for is a nice way to set aside time to think about things we appreciate and why we appreciate them.

The next step is to take care of the things we appreciate – whether those things are our eyes, our parents, our health, the school we attend, a teacher, a place we live, or the country we live in. And the way one takes care of the country is to do these citizen actions when the opportunities arise and throughout ones life. One is more likely to spend time on things one cares about.

Keep in touch with aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives.

Coming Soon

Learn about how your family came to be in this country.

Coming Soon

Promote Excellence.

Mediocrity means not being as good as you could be, not thinking for yourself, doing something not because you think you should but because someone else says you should.  Because someone says it or because you read it, doesn’t make it true, doesn’t make it good for you or good for the country.

An old RC Cola commercial gave good advice – “Decide For Yourself”.  Set a high standard for your own personal excellence, and be the best you can be!

Replace Your credit cards with a debit/check card.

Being in debt really means living beyond one’s means.  It’s the cause of many of life’s struggles and of considerable unhappiness. It often creates stresses that ruins relationships, careers, and one’s health.

Having to pay off a debt often results in regrettable decisions – those that try to increase one’s means at the expense of one’s skills and dreams.  Debt consumes a lot of energy and diverts one’s attention from one’s life.  There is something about being in debt that casts a pall over one’s life and there is something about having no debt that is freeing, calming, and invigorating.

Here are some snippets from a talk that Warren Buffet, one of America’s most successful investors and someone who rarely speaks in public, had with some University of Nebraska students

  • My advice for you is if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
  • Begin your careers with modest savings, rather than debts.
  • Having anything to get ahead of the game instead of behind the game is enormously important.
  • The best way to prepare for a financial future is to get the full use out of your talents. They can’t tax what’s in your head.
  • It’s better to enter a low-paying profession you enjoy rather than a lucrative field they might not like.
  • “The information revolution argues for a terrific future for the world and especially for this country.”

Where credit cards charge interest and sometimes have annual fees, debit or check cards have neither and deduct funds directly from one’s account.  It’s easy to always know where one stands financially.

Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial radio talk show host and author, has materials to help individuals get out of debt.

Resist intimidation.

What does resisting intimidation have to do with being a citizen, much less a good one?  A lot and here’s why!

Intimidation is when someone wants you to do something that you don’t believe is appropriate and suggests that if you don’t comply, you will suffer an uncomfortable consequence.  Sometimes the negative consequence is implied and not mentioned.

Intimidation is also when someone wants you NOT to do something you believe should be done and threatens an uncomfortable consequence if you don’t comply with their wishes.

These uncomfortable consequences – stated or implied – usually involve the threat of physical harm; embarrassment; or the lose of prestige, stature, an opportunity, employment and so on.  You get the idea.

People that intimidate are bullies.  They are cowards and often have been bullied themselves and weren’t strong enough to stand up to the bully.  When someone stands up to bully, the bully usually backs off.  When we don’t stand up to a bully, they feel more emboldened and their bullying and threats become more frequent and more severe.

When we give into a bully, we are hurting the country.  How?  Well first, when we don’t resist intimidation, something happens that shouldn’t or something isn’t happening that should.  Second, if we don’t resist intimidation, we essentially lose our freedom to speak or act in a way that is in the best interest of the country.  And we don’t feel good about ourselves.

Political correctness is a result of intimidation. Political correctness eminates from our unwillingness to say what we think for fear that someone will call us a name.

When a citizen in a democracy can be intimidated, their actions are co-opted by someone else.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has a relevant quote – “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

If I were to rank the citizen actions, this one would be right at the top of the list.

Support kids' entrepreneurial efforts - fundraising, selling Girl Scout Cookies, car washes, lemonade stands, etc.

America is America because of our Constitution and values. Our Constitution and laws give each of us the opportunity to become what we want and to make a good life. Our values give us the model for being successful. Among these values are personal responsibility, hard work, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

When young Americans display an interest in earning money for themselves or in earning money for some cause, we should support them any way we can. Whether it’s setting up a lemonade stand, taking on a paper route, selling Girl Scout cookies, finding a summer job, or participating in a car wash for a school function, we should all support these entrepreneurial efforts with words, purchases, and our time.

Take a course on parenting.

Being a parent and raising another human being to be a good person and citizen, and to have a positive self-image is a daunting task in the best of circumstances.

Many of us are ill-prepared to be parents. None of us had any experience prior to our first child, and few of us have had any training.  We often intuitively mimic our parents’ parenting characteristics – not always a good idea!

The impact on a child of its parents is substantial and profound. The better equipped we are to raise a child, the better the chances that child will grow up with high self esteem and good values.

Understanding a few of the basics about infants, early childhood development and what to expect, go a long why toward being a calmer and better parent.

Talk with your children about ways to be a good citizen.

As parents, we have many responsibilities – all of them important!

One of our roles is to be a teacher. We need to teach our children many things – how to stay safe, how to be social, how to treat others, personal hygiene, how to have good character and so on.

Because we live in a democracy, we need to teach and show our children how to be effective citizens. Ones that will help keep the country strong, vital and free.

Unfortunately, our schools don’t teach students how to be effective citizens. They teach about civics-related topics and have lessons about topics like Earth Day, President’s Day and Native American Indians, but not about being effective citizens.

Most of us have were never taught how. So pickout some of the “citizen actions” on this website you believe would be appropriate for our children. Explain why the actions matter, explain how to go about doing them and ask them to give you feedback on their experiences. Make up new actions with them! Some of the actions can be done together.

Tell the truth.

Telling the truth doesn’t mean randomly expressing ones feelings or thoughts.  Nor does it mean expressing feelings or thoughts in an insensitive way.

It does mean telling people how you feel and what you think, when appropriate.  It does mean being true to oneself (acknowledging ones reality) and not to someone else’s wishes.

Psychiatrist David Viscott  said that “the truth may hurt, but it’s always hurts less than a lie”.  There is more than a little truth in the old saying:

“The truth shall set you free.”

Telling the truth is perhaps the most important thing we can do to live a life that is satisfying and that keeps stress to a minimum. When we tell the truth, we take responsibility for our lives and that leads to a fulfilling life.

We live in a society and at a time where telling the truth is not always valued.  To the contrary, much around us is not reality-based.  Here are some examples of things that distort our sense of reality:

  • political correctness inhibits a free expression of ideas and feelings,
  • putting spin on events and actions to make them appear what they aren’t,
  • advertising often exaggerates if not misleads or is dishonest,
  • juries that seemingly ignore the facts and arrive at verdicts more on social issues rather than on fact and law,
  • the ‘canned’ laughter in most sitcoms is fake, and
  • the fine print meant to mask the “downside” of a product or service.

When one doesn’t tell the truth in a relationship, whether personal or professional, it is crazy-making.  Crazy-making because we end up acting and responding in ways that aren’t based on reality.  Such relationships consume enormous amounts of our energy – wasted energy that could be best be used to live better lives – our own lives.

Telling the truth breeds a strong individual. A strong individual contributes to a  strong family and community, thus keeping our county strong and free.

The Internet has enabled information – both fact and fiction – to be spread quickly so it is more important than ever to ferret out fact from fiction. There are sites like dedicated to the truth no matter what it is.