Why It’s Awesome To Be Alive In 2017.

How a walk down the salad dressing aisle could change your outlook on life.

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2011

It never fails.  Every time I do my grocery shopping, I wind up walking down the aisle with all of the salad dressing and think to myself – “is this a great country or what?”

Ok, so that’s probably not the thoughtful anecdote you expected when you clicked on this story, but hear me out.

In the hours following the horrific Las Vegas shooting, my social media feeds began to fill up with the typical content we see after a tragedy. Like clockwork, people offered prayers, shared news stories, and of course – there’s always a handful of the same people that can’t wait to get political or push some sort of an agenda.

But, I noticed something different this time around.  People were sharing things like “I have no hope for this country” or “I don’t even want to go outside anymore”.   It occurred to me that people are overwhelming depressed about the world and the country we live in.

But, not me.  Because I’ve witnessed first hand the insane amount of salad dressing.

For me, the fact that I can walk into a store and choose between over 100 different varieties of salad dressing tells me I’m living in the greatest country on Earth and at the best time in history.  I mean, it’s nice enough that you can choose from Italian, Ranch, Caesar, Honey Mustard, Red Wine, Onion, Mediterranean, Thousand Island, Balsamic, French or Blue Cheese.  But there’s regular, light and non-fat.   You can buy it family sized or in a packet.   There are dressings I’ve never even tasted – Russian, Western, Roasted Garlic, Basil Walnut, Lemon-Dill, Catalina, or Citrus Splash.  Oh and there are also different brands of many of the same exact flavors including local versions that restaurants produce.

Of course, the salad dressing is just a metaphor.  But, for me, as silly as it sounds – every single time I walk by that vast display of options, I thank my lucky stars that I’m alive – right now.

You see, the world is not so awful and things are really not that bad.   For those of you that are depressed, anxious, worried, ready to give up on our country and this little blue planet we call home – please consider the following:

In 2017 – Not only do we have more varieties of salad dressing than we can handle, we also have more clean drinking water around the world than we’ve ever had before and more people have access to it now than in any time in history.

We have fewer diseases than ever and the most brutal ones that threatened the human race are largely gone, curable or treatable.  Most people that wind up with cancer can be more optimistic than ever before that they can actually beat it through advances in medicine.

We are more generous than ever before.  I’ve interviewed many people that have gone through horrific natural disasters.  Overwhelmingly, the number one thing people affected by hurricanes or tornadoes want to talk about?  The generosity of complete strangers.

You can find the answer to any question you have in less than 5 seconds through a Google search.   You can talk to someone on the other side of the planet in a crystal clear, face to face video.  Speaking of video, you can literally teach yourself how to do pretty much anything from cutting your own hair to building a house by watching tutorials on YouTube.

And since it’s another mass shooting that’s brought us to this breaking point – let’s step back and put things into perspective.

According to FBI data, in 2016, there were 15,650 murders in the United States.  There are currently 323 million people that call America home.  That means, 0.005 percent of the population were victims to murder.  If you want to break the number down even more, the majority of those deaths came from domestic disputes and drug related incidents.  There’s not a flurry of gun toting wackos running down the streets of America looking for you.

So why don’t we see the headline:  “99.995% of Americans safe and sound in 2016”?   I think you know the answer.

Gun deaths are tragic.  What’s more tragic is that most (over 60%) of gun deaths in the United States are suicides.  The odds constantly change but on average – you have a 1 in 500,000 chance of being shot by a random person that just wants to kill people.  For perspective – the odds of being struck by lightening is about 1 in 700,000.  Not far off.

Sadly, I know a few people that have lost their minds when it comes to this doomsday attitude and are constantly worried about the end of the world or sending their kids to school and so on.  Unfortunately, they never take my advice. Maybe you will.   Ready?

Unplug. Go on a digital detox.  Turn off your TV and quit scrolling through Twitter and Facebook every 5 minutes.  Miraculously, you’ll find that most of your perceived problems will vanish.   Someone might argue that solution is just like putting your head in the sand?   My answer?  Point me to the nearest sandbox.

We are bombarded with bad news, all day every day.  It’s jammed down our throats.  And it’s instant.  When the recent shooting happened in Las Vegas, there were people streaming the incident as it was taking place.  When a hurricane strikes, we can see it the moment it blows into a town right on our phone.   If a tornado hits, a friend of a friend will share video from a house that’s been destroyed.   If there’s a dog in some part of the country that’s been starved to death – you’re gonna read about it.  Did a school bus crash in a small town you’ve never heard of?  You’ll see the video of the screaming kids.   No wonder people think the whole world is coming to an end.

Turn. It. Off.

At one time, all of the day’s news (good or bad) came to you in the form of a morning newspaper, a short radio segment at the top of the hour or a nightly news broadcast.  That was it.   Today, it’s non-stop, it’s in your face, it’s depressing and it’s ruining your life.

The crazy thing nobody wants to admit is that we have just as many nut jobs walking around today as we had 50 years ago.  We just didn’t see or hear from them every single day.  We have just as many tragedies happening in 2017 as we had before the internet.  You just didn’t know about it.

I’ve been on a book tour this year to promote 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die.  One of the things I always share with audiences is that this country is still mostly full of  decent, kind people.  I’ve met them from all walks of life – rich, poor, all different races and backgrounds.  Most people from every inch of this country are pretty much just like you.

Quit being scared.  Take a walk.  Laugh with your friends, neighbors and kids.  Live life and be thankful you get to be part of this awesome adventure.

But first, do yourself a favor.

Take a break from the bad news and go buy some salad dressing.

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Bill is a travel journalist, broadcaster and freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Bill travels all across the country doing positive stories, highlighting people and places making America great. He's the host of the weekly Rediscover America podcast and author of the new book 100 Things To Do In America Before You Die! Bill enjoys parks, talking to strangers, eating medium-rare steaks, playing Pickleball and telling good jokes.