Meet George. He was born in Romania and came to the United States due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that ripped apart the land of his birth. He fled his country with a determination to make a new life for himself and his family… and he did. He is satisfied with what he has accomplished. It is glaringly obvious that George is the type of person who makes the best of what he has been given. He makes sure that whatever he plants blooms where it grows…people, optimism, and opportunity… just to name a few of the things that have flourished under his tutelage.
Today is a day of national celebration and George is driving the shuttle bus that is taking me to the airport after the BIG BIRTHDAY BASH. His enthusiasm is contagious as he talks about what he loves about this Fourth Of July holiday.
“I celebrate this land today too and with great joy,” he says in English broken by his native dialect. “It has given me my independence. Its a place where I can be happy and work doing what I want to do. I get to choose. That was not possible in Romania.”
“Here in America, you have chances. You can be rich or you can be poor but you always have hope. And even if you are poor you still have opportunities and chances waiting outside your door every day. You still can live decently no matter what you have or don’t have. I hear so many complain that ‘”I do not have this or that'” but they will never starve here. The citizens of the United States will never know the true hopelessness of there being nothing out there for them…no jobs, no homes, no heat, no food. Here, don’t have to live under the threat of knowing that there is a chance you might be taken from your home never to be seen or heard from again. In the United States, you don’t know what true oppression is and the fear that dominates your life because of it. People here think they have it so bad, but the truth is, they don’t know how good they really have it. They forget to be thankful for every morning that they wake up in a country that honors its citizens and gives them the freedom to be who they want to be.”
“So what is your favorite thing about the Fourth of July?” I ask him.
“Of course it is the fireworks,” George exclaims with the enthusiasm of a young boy “I went down to the river the first year I was here to watch. Never had I seen such a thing. So loud and so big. To me they were colors of hope and promise and I knew if I reached high enough in the night sky that I too would find my place in this country. And I did. It’s not the perfect place but its my place. That is what I was looking for when I came…a place for me to be me. I like to think that I was born a citizen that day, that I was born on the Fourth of July.”
“Are you going to celebrate tonight?” he asks.
“Yes. I will spend time watching the fireworks with my family and setting off a few ourselves,” I say.
“When you do, I want you to look at all the different colors in the sky, and remember that they look like all the different kinds of people living here. It is a beautiful sight, is it not? says this immigrant turned citizen.
And tonight, as I watch my own family of immigrants celebrate alongside the people of this diverse neighborhood, I think of George, and I have to agree with him… it is a glorious and beautiful sight indeed!