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The American flag flies high above the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater / Photo by Bethany Prange

It has been a difficult few years.

Terms like layoff, poverty and hunger have become so familiar it’s hard to remember a time when the economy wasn’t troubled.

Current temperatures in the St. Louis region are hovering above 100 degrees as we approach the Fourth of July. The drought has caused many towns to cancel their annual fireworks display – and in some cases, their entire celebration.

These are reasons enough to feel a little less than enthusiastic about a mid-summer holiday.

But before you cancel your barbecue and climb under the covers to hibernate through this Independence Day, let’s take a moment to remember the things that make America so great.

• Americans are a generous lot.  We are a group of people who steps up to volunteer and donate to those less fortunate, even when we are struggling ourselves.  At the St. Louis Area Foodbank alone, more than 12,000 people volunteer here every year.  Despite their own circumstances, these individuals spend countless hours sorting and repacking food for families in need.

• Americans are clever folks. We’ve invented so many brilliant things – the Internet, toilet paper, the telephone, the artificial heart – we can forgive ourselves for reality television.

• Americans are free! Sure, we may not always like what our government does, but we live in a place where we’re free to shout about it from the rooftop. Better still, we can vote to change what we don’t like.

• Americans are resilient. As a country, we’ve faced adversity since we were born, but we just keep marching on. We’re a scrappy bunch and proud of it!

America put a man on the moon and brought the world iconic figures like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and classic designs like the 1966 Ford Mustang convertible.  From apple pie and baseball to Jon Stewart, we’ve got food, sports and entertainment in the bag.

And just in case you’re still not sure it’s great to be an American, CNN has a fun list of 100 things that make America great. Sure, they included Texas linedancing and the Dougie, but it’s still a fantastic list of unique things about this great country.

So as we approach Independence Day, let’s remember the awesomeness of being American. Even when things are tough, we still have tater tots and chocolate chip cookies!

Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank