Friday, July 4, 2014

Thinking About Independence and the American Dream

Happy Fourth of July! This has always been one of my favorite holidays spent with family and being outside. I love the food, the fun, and spending time with friends, although a big firework show with lots of people is not really my thing. I always like the nights around the fire in our own backyard the best.

I have been thinking about this post for the last month or so and decided that it would be perfect for today since I want to talk about the great examples I have around me of what American Independence and the American Dream can mean in a life.

I'm working for the summer as a housekeeper (more info on that process here) and since it is in Seattle, there is lots of diversity within the employees. About half of us are college students looking for a summer job, and the rest are established immigrants. Two things show up right off the bat. First, all of us college students working to put themselves through school, building towards a future where they can provide for themselves and their families. Second, so many immigrants from lots of different places all here legally and grateful for all the little things that I sometimes take for granted.

I offer two examples.

Cynthia is from the Philippines and still has lots of her family living there. She is a widow with two adult children, one of whom is married and living with her along with her elderly father-in-law who can't live on his own. Her son is a lawyer contracted out to Microsoft, her daughter has a master's degree in education, and her son-in-law just entered law school which is why they live with her. She works as a housekeeper/custodian for the University of Washington and has been at the same job for 30 years. With this job she has helped put both of her kids through school while taking care of her father-in-law, and owning a home. When she left the Philippines she still had a few acres there that she kept in case the USA didn't work out for her. Now she grows rice and employees people to work for her since she doesn't make it back often. She doesn't make any profit, but keeps people employed while often donating to her church here in Seattle.

Teke is from Eritrea and has several kids and grandkids. He does the same job and has also helped raise his kids so that they are now independent and established. When he found out that I have been married for almost 3 years he started to ask me about if I want to have kids. He then talked all about how lucky his family has been with medical advances here and how there is so much help to have children and experience the joy of having a large family, something he is sad to not see often. He talks about how the hard work he did in the past is now paying off as he gets old and his children are now able to help him for the last few years until he can retire. Oh, and he also owns his own home.

These are just two of the dozen people from the additional countries of Ethiopia, Western Sahara, South Africa, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Some of them don't speak English super well so I don't know as many details about their specific stories, but they have these same undertones.

These are true examples of what it means to appreciate the freedom and opportunity that can be found in the United States of America, the belief that through hard work, perseverance, and planning for the future a person can make their life better than they had, and better for their children. Too often we get caught up on how life should be "easier" because of where we live and the opportunities we have, but it is good to get these reminders that opportunities are simply the chance to make a choice about what your priorities are and what you are willing to do to achieve them, giving you the opportunity for success and joy. I am so grateful for the chances that I have by living here in this amazing country.

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