There are moments in our lives which stand out as light bulb moments. Moments where, in an instant, we are not the same people we were when we last breathed in. I had one such moment today, sitting at my favorite table at BenLees, writing a story for an upcoming special edition of The Daily Globe.
The story is about a man – a gentle, sincere spirit – who moved to Worthington from Mexico. This is not an unusual story in Worthington. There are hundreds of similar stories to be found here on the prairie, miles away from the homes of their birth, the land of their blood, their hearts.
But it is this story which has captured my attention. It is this story which has made me realize how blessed I am to have been born a US Citizen, to have grown up in a normal, middle class family, expecting as my right that things would go well with me. That I would grow up to have a job, a husband, children, a cozy home and food on my table. Never having to fear retaliation for my beliefs – political, religious, or philosophical – because here in America we can say what we want, stand up for whatever we choose without fear, firmly believing that the United States Constitution is on our side.
I am under no delusions that life is perfect in the US. That injustice never happens or truth is never suppressed. Nor am I saying that every American grows up to have an ideal life or that, if they don’t have what I have, they are somehow less fortunate. I’m just saying that, for me, my life is pretty darn good and I really can’t complain about anything because – other than growing up to be a famous opera singer, which never did happen – I pretty much have the life I always dreamed of. (Well, I’d like to be a published author without all the bother of being one. One always needs a dream, right?)
What I am saying is that I have taken for granted the assumptions I grew up with, that I hold still. I have taken them for granted because they have been fulfilled. And yet there are people all around me who have worked their whole lives to reach the place I was born to, the rights that are inherent in my birth. This does not make me special or them somehow less than me. Heaven forbid!
On the contrary, it makes them rather amazing in my eyes. Amazing for their perseverance. For their dedication to their goals. I am where I am because I was born to it. They are where they are because they’ve worked their butts off to get here.
I’m embarrassed that I have been so unappreciative for so long.
Their stories are all around us. There is often a huge gulf between “people like me” and “people like them” but there doesn’t have to be. Knowing a person’s story brings understanding and, hopefully, a bridging of that gulf. Knowing a person’s story opens our eyes. Knowing a person’s story takes our focus off of our self-centered selves and places it where it belongs – on others. And then, hopefully, we can figure out where and if we fit into their stories.
I am, truly, overwhelmed. I’ve traveled a lot in my life. Seen a lot of countries, both third world and first. But it’s the story of this man – my neighbor, so to speak – that has opened my eyes.
I am so thankful.