Saturday, July 2, 2016

Really, We Are Fortunate!

     Hard to believe it is already July. Almost time to celebrate another holiday, our country's Independence Day. I know there will be many who think we don't have much to celebrate this year. There is too much turmoil within our own borders and with our relationships throughout the world. And that is true. And yet, every day I am given a glimpse of how really fortunate we are overall.
     The other night I had the privilege of being able to go out for dinner with some of the other "host moms" from the program we participated in last year. We all were able to host a student from outside the U.S. to stay with us during their winter break for two weeks and also during a month of their summer break. We received updates on all the kids, learned how they were doing in their assigned trade schools now that they are out of their high school programs. Some are doing well, some struggle. We are trying to learn how we can partner from a distance and still provide encouragement, guidance, and assistance as they work to make a, hopefully, successful transition to adulthood.
     So often, we feel we have limited choices here. Yet, at least we have choices. I know that depending where you fall your choices are limited, but not like anything these kids are facing. I just learned that due to their backgrounds and the type of school they had been given over to for care since they were young children their lives will be restricted forever.
     The students we found to be bright, engaging, kind, and fun loving, were at a school for children that were considered to have been born with some kind of defect. This basically means that even though they have graduated out of this school, there is a permanent mark on their record. They can never have the right to vote in their home country. They can never own a home. They can never have a driver's license.These are kids that can speak 2-3 languages, tear apart and put back together a computer, repair a bicycle when it breaks down, cooked beautiful dishes from their home country while they were here, and yet, because they were once judged less than, will never be allowed to catch up or succeed.
     It can be hard to succeed here, depending where you are born and what resources your family has. It can be hard to move from one atmosphere to another. I spent years working on the factory floor. I was proud of that. I helped make car parts for a company that supplied to The Big Three. My grandfather spent years on the assembly line building cars for Checker Cabs. He retired from that job. I remember his cake with the taxi cab on it. I was proud to carry on that tradition. My other grandfather was a ding man at Kelvinator, repairing refrigerators on the assembly line. I did something similar for a time at a local furniture factory repairing filing cabinets when I was out of high school.
     And yet, I longed to do something different, something more. I didn't always want to be known as a factory rat. I had tried college right out of high school but had not succeeded for a variety of reasons. But by the time I was well into my thirties I was ready to give it another go.
     I managed to finish my BA degree and then began the long process of working to convince employers that I was more than my work history showed. It took a lot of effort. I began to realize that the saying is true, "The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence" or the other side of the door in the factory. Life off the factory floor is not always easier. It is in many ways, especially nice generally not having to deal with extreme heat in the summer, but there is still stress.
     I have managed to make that transition. I was allowed to change my goals, to dream my dreams. I was given chances. I still vividly remember the day I walked in and saw my phone, with my name and number on my desk. It was amazing and validating and so very frightening. It has been an amazing journey so far, as I learn and grow on the job. There are days when I am still so overwhelmed that I don't quite know what to do, but I never forget how really fortunate we are that we can work to make changes in our lives. We really do have a lot of independence!

1 comment:

  1. Based on the overwhelming positivity you spoke of with your exchange student, I cannot fathom him (or any of his fellow students) being legally prohibited from making something of himself. It's somewhat similar what immigrants of Irish, German, and African descent once knew here, except there - in the 21st Century - the discrimination is legal and promoted by the government. It's actually disgusting to read that...

    You, on the other hand, have overcome significant obstacles and have much to be proud of. You deserve every bit of success and I offer continued congratulations.