Recently, I needed some shampoo, so I rode my bike to the local
Target. I live in a crowded working-class area, and the street that
runs through my neighborhood is populated with small
Coasting down the avenue, I noticed that about 20 percent of the
stores had gone under, while another third were visibly struggling.
The remaining half appeared fine, but I knew from talking to the
owners that they were hurting as well.
I rode by a tiny storefront church that was packed, even on a
Saturday night. Other businesses passed in a blur — an adult
video store, a Latino supermarket, a community theater.
At the Target I spent awhile in the vast shampoo aisle,
obsessing over which brand to buy. Afterward, I went over to the
adjacent little food court and sat down to people-watch for a bit
before heading home.
In front of me, a young woman was talking loudly with her friend
about Barack Obama. She spoke with big gestures, making her point,
and I noticed a large tattoo in fancy script on her shoulder that
read, “Truly Blessed.”
I looked to my left, where an East Indian family quietly sipped
their Starbucks. The women wore saris, and they had a baby with
tiny gold bracelets on her chubby wrists. On my right was a couple
chatting in Spanish, while their little boy happily ate pizza.
I worry a lot about the economy. The struggling stores in my
neighborhood are a microcosm of businesses across America, and it
pains me to see so many people in trouble. I hold strong opinions
about the policies enacted by our government, and I deeply hope
that my fears about the future are unfounded.
But what happened to the other side? What about the America that
people don’t mention as much anymore? In 45 minutes on a
random day, in a tiny piece of a random city, I experienced so much
of what makes this country great.
Whether you want to practice your religion, engage in
pornography, open a supermarket or experience the arts, all of
those choices are available here. And the options continue;
I’ve visited countries where an average-sized market is
smaller than the shampoo section at Target.
As for other rights, it’s the same story. Given the lack
of freedom in so many nations, we’re incredibly fortunate to
be able to talk politics as loudly as we want in public places.
America is still a destination for immigrants from all over the
world, and hundreds of millions of people, including my own
grandparents, have benefited from the amazing opportunities
Amid this economic time, it’s so easy to forget a fundamental
truth written on the shoulder of a young girl. We are truly
blessed. Each of us, every day. I’m hoping I can remember
that without a tattoo.