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Some of my best friends are Republicans, and I’m grateful for that.

living in gratitude©

living in gratitude©

I’m most grateful for their friendship, because they’re among the warmest, most welcoming Americans I know.

One of them helped save my life. He became a lifelong friend, and then his wife, and then their family, from the Gulf Coast to the West Coast.

They’ve all been with us through hospital and disability, recovery and rehabilitation, back-to-school and back-to-work.

Our bonds have deepened over shared sorrow and shared joy.

We’ve shared meals, adventures — kayaking in Canada! wine-tasting in California! — family milestones (the first grand-daughter!), and more.

We’ve celebrated graduations, my U.S. citizenship, and one military retirement that left me in tears, in Texas. We’ve celebrated one 50th birthday.

You can tell a lot about friends by the way they celebrate life.

We met each others’ parents in Canada and California. Hadi and I are especially grateful to have met the couple whose love of country has been passed from generation to generation. We’re proud of this generation, accepting daunting challenges in the Coast Guard and Air Force.

I am grateful to have become friends with the pilot who taught his daughter to fly by traveling across the country with her. I can’t hear that story enough. It’s as good as the story about the daughter who grew up to become a pilot and built her own plane (with the aid of the military husband we have yet to meet).

We’re grateful for their kindness, and their incredible welcome to the United States.

My life has been enriched by these friendships. We challenge each other on politics; we don’t share the same worldview on some of the hottest issues of the day.

This has been one of the best parts of becoming a citizen for me.

After years of being a professional cynic (journalist), and judgmental outsider (it’s easy to find fault with U.S. public policy), I have been trying to listen more to Americans with belief systems shaped by a different culture than mine.

I’m listening, and learning. I’m grateful for the lessons about what it means to be an American in these trying times.