Saturday, September 29, 2007
Proud to be an American
Tonight our family had a wonderful time at a party for our closest friends who were celebrating becoming citizens. We attended the ceremonies for them during the past couple of weeks, and I was quite moved by the entire process. This family is incredible, they arrived in the US coming from South Africa with nothing but a few suitcases and a dream, and it all culminated 6 years later with their becoming Americans.
Sitting in the court rooms as each of them gave their oath to their new country, looking at the faces of all the others who had endured many hardships to reach this day, I realized how easy it is to take our American-ness for granted. Being born and raised an American, we don't stop to think about what it would be like if we did not have the freedoms we have today, the relative safety and security that America has to offer. Listening to many of the stories of their life in South Africa, the day to day dangers and challenges, the kidnappings and car jackings, American life takes on new meaning.
I am honored that we are friends with this family. We all love them so very much, and we have enjoyed countless hours of laughter and drank gallons of Diet Coke together. They have an appreciation for all that is really important in life, and they remind us not to take the inconsequential things too seriously. Their warmth and kindness is extended to anyone who crosses their path, and their children are held as dearly in our hearts as if they were our own. They are all remarkable, and our lives are infinitely sweeter due to their presence.
Perhaps all of this takes on even greater meaning for us, as we too have had our "Thank God" moments as we landed on American soil with each of our children, uttered not in jest but as a quick moment of true prayer. We have had to wind our way through the paperwork morass to bring our kids home and obtain citizenship for them. Exhaustedly standing in line at the immigration station in various American airports we have heard the wonderful words "Congratulations...welcome to America!" uttered by nameless uniformed officials as they stamped and shuffled a few papers which was representative of a years worth of work on our part. We have walked into an American Embassy in countries halfway around the world and FINALLY found a smiling American face staring back at us and realized we were under a bit more stress coping with an unfamiliar culture than we had originally thought.
Even with all of that, it only makes us a bit more familiar with what our friends have gone through, for we can never fully comprehend the sacrifices they have made to arrive at this day. Leaving all behind that they had spent their lifetimes working for and beginning anew takes great courage. What must it have felt like for them as they landed here in America with 3 young kids in tow, knowing there was no turning back? I have often tried to figure out what Kenny must have felt in the same circumstance and I come up empty, for as hard as I may try to put myself in his shoes I know it will fall short.
As I saw their beaming faces tonight, I was filled with gratitude for their family's presence in our lives, and for this wonderful place we live in. She has her flaws, but Lady Liberty provides more opportunities than just about any place else on earth...the opportunity to start a new life, the opportunity to become parents to the parentless in foreign lands, the opportunity to practice our faith as we see fit without government interference.
In deference to the ocassion, our family made special T-Shirts to commemorate the day. Seeing the photo this evening of three other little immigrants smiling for the camera was a reminder of just how large our world has become, or perhaps that should rightly be how small it now seems, where lands that once sounded so exotic now have a ring of familiarity to them.
I know one family that is very proud to be American tonight, and their friends are equally very proud of them!!