Some say patriotism is dead.  You turn on the news, and there is always someone -some politician, some celebrity, some businessman- talking about what is wrong with our country or how corrupt our country is. They spit out commentary focusing on the danger, the violence, the health problems, and couple it with screenshots of body bags, police cars, politician’s angry faces. Yup, watch an hour long news program and you can begin to lose faith; you can begin to lose confidence in what our country is or, at least, what it is turning into.
 
Usually I try to stay away from the news for that very reason. I try to back away from the negative, keep to myself, go about my business. I am not exactly an overly patriotic person, to say the least. Sure, I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I watch fireworks on the Fourth of July; I bake cupcakes and frost them in the shape of a flag (hardly true patriotism, I know, but it counts, right?). I listen to politician’s debates. I vote.
 
But on Sunday, that clutter of chaos and negativity the news constantly spins and focuses on was wiped away from my mind.  I remembered what this country stands for and the sacrifices made by others for us to be free.
 
And this reminder came in the form of an elderly man in a coffee shop.
 
He was wearing an oatmeal colored sweater and large, horn-rimmed glasses. I didn’t really pay any attention to him at first. Having never been to this particular coffee shop before, I was killing time before heading to the gym to do a Zumba dance workout. I was trying not to be annoyed at the fact it took forever for me to pay for drink. A TV was loudly blaring, the staff wasn’t greeting me, and as I clumsily dropped my wallet, credit cards and cash spreading on the floor like confetti, the customers in front of me did not even bother to turn around to help. Instead, they pretended not to see me as I awkwardly dropped to the floor, whispering my apologies as I tried to grab my plastic credit card under the black snakeskin Gucci heel of the woman in front of me.
 
“Figures,” I thought.
 
So when I grabbed the corner chair, wallet in one hand, chai latte in another, I wanted to just focus on my laptop and keep to myself like everyone in the place seemed to be doing. An elderly couple had just sat down in a couple of the leather chairs near me, but other than that, everyone else was near the front of the shop, busy making drinks, buying drinks, minding their business.
 
I turned to my laptop. The TV was still blaring loudly; it sounded like NASCAR race was about to begin. My dad had always loved NASCAR; I remembered sitting in the living room and watching the brightly colored cars race round and round the track while he watched in anticipation. I remembered at the beginning of every race, there was the singing of the national anthem, and today was no different. I continued to stare at my computer screen as I half-listened to a woman begin to belt the first view lines of the national anthem.
 
“Oh say, can you see….”
 
Suddenly, I heard a scraping of chair legs near me. I looked up, and it was an elderly man sitting near me. With a face worn with deep wrinkles and gray hair balding near the top, he stood up, turned towards the TV screen, put one hand on his heart, and listened.
 
Just listened.
 
I could not stop staring. His face was full of admiration and pride as he stared at the TV screen, listening to the national anthem; I could sense it. Tears filled my eyes at this man’s true and open respect for his country.
Apparently I was not the only one who sensed it. Suddenly, the woman who was sitting near him stood up, placing her hand over her heart, mimicking the man. Then the employee behind the counter turned to the TV, placing his hand over his heart, as well. Suddenly, one by one, everyone in the coffee shop stopped what they were doing, stood up, and listened to the national anthem. I stood up as well, amazed at the power of action, the power of one person, the power of patriotism.
 
When the song finished, I sat back down, still in awe of the moment I just witnessed. Soon, the coffee shop began to buzz again, and the elderly man sat down, sipping his coffee.
 
But something had changed for me. I realized this moment is one snapshot of America. This moment is an example of pure patriotism. There was no cameras to witness it, no reporters to ask for comments. And it showed me that what we see on the news is not the whole picture of what our country is.  Our country is more than the negative stories, and it is the everyday actions such as the man at the coffee shop that help to make the heartbeat of America strong.
 
We must not forget to show love for our country, for if there is not love for the very place that gives us life and opportunity, soon all our country will be are those negative stories.
 
Lindsay Henry is a recent graduate of Central Michigan University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Communication and her master’s degree in Communication. She enjoys reading, writing, and being with her friends and family. You can usually find Lindsay strolling around a bookstore or sitting in a coffee shop; a chai tea latte or white chocolate mocha are her drinks of choice.
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