Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Brought You Here?

In this life we are all on a journey. For some it has been a journey with many challenges. Hardships. Barriers. Uncertainty. Fear. Unknown territory. How we adjust to each of these challenges determines our happiness in life as well as our future security.
I have watched many of my refugee friends as they have faced many of the above. New in an unknown land, with language barriers. I have watched as they apply for jobs; bought homes and cars. I have seen them in the garden, connecting to the land, providing for their families, hope in their eyes. I have sat in their living rooms and listened to their language and taught them mine. I have seen the determination in both young and old to make a good life here in America.
Today, I found myself at the Gerald Ford Auditorium for the naturalization ceremony as a couple friends became United States citizens. A beautiful moment in their journeys.
Just before the court came to order a man came to the front to give some general instructions regarding the day. He noted what to do and not to do with their certificates. He went over the basics of applying to vote, and how to change their status to citizens. But there was one moment that caught me off guard and brought me to tears. Two rows in front of me was a husband and wife along with their three children. The man announced that once the parents are citizens that all children under the age of 18 and under their green card will also at that moment be citizens. The joy and emotion on this families faces was absolutely touching. A family all becoming citizens together.
The court came to order, the Honorable Judge Neff presiding. She shared with us that the new citizens came from 38 countries from around the world; near and far. Lands of peace and others of turmoil and strife. She read the 81 names of the new citizens and each came forward to receive their certificates. Such pride and joy on each face. Happiness. Happy to belong to this great country.
The Star Spangle Banner was sung. The Pledge of Allegiance recited. Each new citizen responding to the oath. The singing of God Bless America. Then the colors were retired and court was adjourned.
Much joy, clapping, hugging and handshakes as congratulations went around the room.
Then another moment, that tugged at my heart. A woman sobbing, a joyous happy sob as she exclaimed, "Now no one can take him from us. He is here to stay!" A fear released. New hope.
As I scanned the room I realized, each individual had a story. How I would love to sit down with each of them and ask, "What brought you to America?" "Welcome!"
May you find peace and happiness in your new land.
Mero bahini United States citizen ho. Congratulations!

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