A cheerily aspirational celebration of Americans who are making a difference.
At the beginning of their latest collaboration, Kyle, widow of “American sniper” Chris Kyle, and DeFelice (co-authors: American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal, 2015) proclaim that “the pioneer spirit built America,” with apologies to the Native and African peoples who paid the bill (“there is much we regret in retrospect”). Just what that spirit constitutes is a little fuzzy, but the phrase seems to translate as community-building altruism, its proponents “doing their own part to bring order to chaos and to show up for other people.” Allowing that clichés such as “our kids are our future” are just that, clichés, the authors argue that the pioneer spirit is built on the premise that we sacrifice now for a better future. You might not know it from the behavior of the boomers and Gen Xers, but as for the kids themselves, many are doing important things. One example is Alexandra Scott, a victim of neuroblastoma who used part of her short life to operate a lemonade stand that raised thousands of dollars to help children like her—and, now that she’s passed, the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer raises millions. “All of this,” write the authors, “because one little girl decided to open a lemonade stand in her front yard…and because thousands of other kids decided to copy her.” The authors also discuss the work of veteran Micah Fink, a New Yorker who takes fellow veterans on horseback rides in the Montana wilderness to work through PTSD and “guilt at not being ‘O.K.,’ whatever that means.” Other profiles concern an autistic Appalachian Trail hiker and a blind marathon runner, with many others centering on veterans of recent wars.
Though a rather ordinary book, the narrative is relentlessly optimistic and a good source of ideas for merit badge projects.