Though our nation is in turmoil with questions about racial justice along with the uncertainty of the Corona virus it might be good if we all take a breath and remember some things we have to be thankful for. With July 4th celebrations just around the corner remember that our founding fathers began this American experiment with the revolutionary idea that all men were created equal and were given rights, not from any government but from God. Though none of the signers of the declaration were perfect; the direction that they pointed us to as a nation has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. My own grandfather came at 16 years old in 1913, escaping the poverty of Messina Italy that had been devastated by the great earthquake of 1908 that left over 50,000 dead.
Today I think of our Nepali friends who came as refugees escaping ethnic cleansing just 10 years ago. Before we lose hope imagine where any of these would have gone if America were not here.
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! – Inscription on the Statue of Liberty
Matthew 13:44 The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field
The myth that the streets were paved with gold clashed harshly with the reality that my grandparents faced as they found themselves in the cold confines of Ellis Island waiting for approval to enter the city of New York. Yet despite the struggles they faced in a new and strange land they came with determination to begin a new life. These weren’t the classic “Pioneers” with covered wagons, but they were none the less bravely facing the same kinds of challenges.
Though my grandfather could have decided to live in an Italian neighborhood insulated from the culture around him, he chose his own path. America was his new home and he was determined to put down roots here and to begin a new kind of life. Over his entire life Grampa returned only once to Italy. He raised my Dad in a mixed neighborhood in Far Rockaway Queens. He did just like the man in the parable, he sold everything he had to gain the treasure he saw, even if no one else agreed.
Today as his grandchild I look back in amazement at the sacrifice he made and hard work it took. He came on the boat at 16 years of age with his older 17 year old brother. He worked with some of his brothers in the barber business till he had his own shop, married and provided a home for their six children. More importantly he taught my Dad that family life meant everybody working together cheerfully because was how life should be lived. Grampa was never at all ashamed of his humble Italian roots from Calabria, but over the barbershop door waved a new flag. The flag of his new country. He gave us an example of how success isn’t about being like everyone else. Lasting success is about being true to your dream, grateful for your opportunities and willing to give your all for your family. What a blessing our family has today because Grampa was not only an immigrant he was a pioneer!