Dirty blond, lucky blond, dumb blond, oh, if only I were blond. What do you think about when you hear the word or see a blond? Perhaps you do not think anything at all. It’s certainly possible, even easy, to go through life and not even give it a thought. Easy enough for me because I never needed to project all of my hopes and dreams of someday actually having a life, all onto one little blond girl seen on a picture postcard.

There’s a lot of talk these days about taking the time to remember and acknowledge the feeling of gratitude for something in our lives. Therapist, including myself, encourage clients to keep gratitude diaries, to make daily affirmations reflecting gratitude, and to remember to focus our attention on that which is positive and beneficial in our lives. We do that so that we can learn to be happier and to find more peace in life, and gratitude is truly healing. These practices are all well and good, and very definitely necessary. Yet, it is still so easy to take many things for granted. For instance, how many people would you suppose remember to be grateful for having the ability and the freedom to walk along a lakeshore and to make sand castles? That is exactly what the little blond girl on the postcard was doing. She was also enjoying her right to enjoy this time of her life as a child. More significantly, she was experiencing being a little girl child who was allowed to have such a lovely day at the beach.

That postcard was sent to the storyteller who was on the Moth Story Hour, Dori Samadzai Bonner, who is now a grown woman and a writer. As a child she lived in Afghanistan, where she was born, and she was sent that postcard from an aunt now living in America. Dori was 10 years old and living under a Russian occupation.
That little blond instantly became a beacon of hope and the promise of possibilities to the little girl across the world who didn’t know that such a life could exist. Our storyteller’s life had been miserably oppressive and it was on the way towards getting worse. At that time, her brother was allowed to play and have a life, while after school all she could do was cook and clean, and any other things deemed to be done by or to the girls in her society. She and the other girls in her situation did not wear the expression of freedom and joy on their faces as had the little girl, now an icon, on the postcard.

Things were beginning to get desperate in her village. With saddened hearts her parents devised a plan to smuggle her and her brother out of the country. They paid a stranger sent by an organization that took care of such matters. The stranger, after stealing money from the little girl then ultimately abandoned them at the airport. Eventually another stranger appeared, found the children who had been there for hours and had felt very uncertain about their fate. Thankfully, this man did in deed complete his job, and several months later he was able to successfully deliver them to their destination.

In her teens, our brave and bold storyteller did actually arrive in her much dreamed about America. That was almost the end of her very moving story that I have captured here in a nutshell, except for this. It’s what she said at the very end of her story that reminded me of so much. She spoke about how when she arrived she so wanted to “thank America for giving her a sanctuary and a home”. For so many years her life’s breath had come from that little girl on the postcard that had given her the ability to dream. To our storyteller that little girl represented a life that was free.

Why am I re-telling her story? It comes back to gratitude. I have never indulged very much in patriotism or nationalism, which I believe are what give rise to war and the desire to divide and conquer. I would rather embrace and love. I believe that we are all connected and part of a great whole, and that we are all worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not that I do not love our country because I truly do. Yet, at the same time, when it comes to love, I believe in and strive for a world that has no boundaries. It is strange and paradoxical to be raised in the United States of America. In some ways we have it all. We are called a democracy. These days sometimes that does not seem as evident as we would like, and yet we were raised to believe in what a democratic society can do, and that very belief created within each of us, whether we recognize or not, a standard to rise to. A standard that says we have the right to have a voice, the right to protest an injustice, the right to expect equality, respect, truth and we have the right to expect our government to truly represent “ we the people”. Necessarily, we even have the duty to point out when we, as a nation, have fallen short. That very right and the need to identify and be critical of such failings can also steal the gift of gratitude. It is important to remain clear and true to that which remains positive. Those of us in this nation, who have full bellies, are safe, and not just struggling to survive, have been given the ability and the responsibility to stand up for a better world. In doing so our thinking can become very black and white. We are angry with our government for saying that we are one thing and often acting very differently. We are angry because we have a standard that lives under our skin that is not being met. However, at the same time we are free to stand up because we do have a democracy, deeply faulted as it may be. Most times we can safely gather together in groups, write articles, talk openly in public about our concerns, and we can continue to grow towards that standard for creating a better world. I am deeply grateful for that.
As a little girl I delighted in playing on the beach, dipping my feet in the water, and yes, I was free to dream. Sometimes it takes a good storyteller to reflect a different perspective based on her vastly different circumstances that is sufficient to remind us that nothing is black and white.
My entire perspective has not changed. I still prefer and hope for a world that is not so defined by its borders. As always I will continue to love my neighbors, as well as those I have not met who reside across the globe. I will continue to keep up my standard for loving and respecting all life, and caring for those who are in need. It is crucial that we do not give up our standard for a better world for all to enjoy, and necessary for well being to experience gratitude. Ultimately, I am dearly grateful to America for taking in our storyteller and giving her a chance to create a life. I can also say, “thank-you America”.