Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Immigrant's Gratitude

Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines, devastating the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte. It was a worrisome time because I do have close and distant relatives in various parts of that island nation. After the storm passed, and our relatives were accounted for, I was left with gratitude.

I was at the barber recently, and the person who cut my hair casually asked where I was from. "New Jersey," I said. "Were you born there?" he asked. "No, I was born in the Philippines."

He listened as I told my immigration story (I was born in Manila, and I came here when I was three years old) , and I listened to his own immigration story (he was born in Italy, and he came here when he was thirteen). We both became American citizens when we were young: me before high school, and him before joining the US military.

"I think immigrants like you and me are more grateful for what we have here in the US," he said.

That is probably true.

The last time I visited the Philippines, I was ten years old. I was boy running, swimming and playing in the hot sun every day. My memories of that long vacation are wonderful, but I also remember how very different it was from the United States. I knew I preferred the "comfort" of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Being an immigrant means you or your parents have come from someplace else. Being an immigrant is to be aware of two ways of living, and awareness is at least one ingredient to being grateful.

Tomorrow, the people of the Philippines will continue their lives, as best as they are able to. My Mom said that it doesn't take a lot to make a Filipino happy. I'm grateful for this trait.

Tomorrow, I'm going to sit down to the most American meal possible. My wife said she has enough cranberry sauce. I'm grateful.

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