KIRKSVILLE — Several of the people I interviewed during an exploratory reporting trip to Kirksville in February mentioned that their version of the American Dream is a combination of healthy relationships, happiness in the work they're doing and giving back to their communities or the world. Three of seven specifically said their perception of the American Dream was connected to their faith – which is a different story than the one often heard about home, college or retirement.
One of them was Amanda Powell, 23, of Kirksville, who said that to her "the American Dream is being able to take care of yourself to the extent that you're then able to take care of the people around you. I think that without that, we're not going to get very far."
Powell said she believes that helping people gain access to vital resources is necessary for any healthy community. There is a social stigma associated with asking for help that is "bruising the American Dream," she said. "People can't even begin to think about the American Dream because they can't take care of themselves."
Part of Powell's own dream is to manage a nonprofit organization that educates the public about available resources and works to eliminate these social stigmas. The idea started out as a fun way to help people, but as she's matured the idea has flourished.
"I've experienced a lot of spiritual growth in the last year … kind of my understanding of the world and understanding my place in it," she said. "It's an outgrowth of love. My calling is to love people. However that fits in the world is fine. I think that's what structured my personal view of the American Dream."
I found myself wondering how a person's faith impacts their perspective on the American Dream and their ability to achieve it. How does it differ from those who profess to have no religious affiliation at all?
This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.