My sixteen year old asked me yesterday how my parents accomplished what they have in their lives. As I answered his questions it got me to thinking.
My parents made a very brave decision to leave their homeland 43 years ago. To go to a country that they new very little about. To a place that was very foreign to them, it's language, it's customs and I know that they must have been scared. They were leaving everything they had behind them, all of their belongings and all of their family. As they boarded that very ancient prop airplane, headed over the Atlantic, with a baby and a 1 1/2 year old in their arms (well knowing that they would never be able to return to their homeland) how did they feel? Would I have had that kind of courage? I'm so blessed that so many years ago my parents made that amazing journey to this great nation of ours.
When they arrived in America it was a very different country than we have today. They had many more obstacle's facing them than the new immigrants have. Nothing was labeled in Spanish. So they learned to read and write English. And they are better for it. They did not go on welfare nor did they have free medical. If they wanted that they would have stayed in their homeland. You see the new man in power made a lot of promises to the people. He promised everyone would be equal if they followed him. He promised that the new government would take care of them. He promised no more poverty. He promised everyone equal pay. He promised the moon and the stars. But my parents did not want a hand out, even though they were poor and uneducated, they understood that no one gives you something for free. That the only real way to be successful was to work hard and live right. They didn't want their babies to grow up under this new government. They new that that opportunity was there for everyone in America. Even for people like themselves who had been through many, many hardships in their lives.
America for them was not a place to come for a free handout from the government, as it has become for so many people now. But a place to start a new life, a place where they knew that they could be successful. A place where the government would not run their lives.
When they finally came to the United States they arrived with nothing. No belonging, no money, no skills but their determination to work hard and be successful. They asked for no handouts and they alway gave thanks for this great nation. For the opportunities that it gave them. For the freedoms from government control. For the future that it allowed their children. They worked 2 and 3 jobs, scrubbing toilets and floors, whatever it took to save up the money they needed to move up in life.
They instilled in me a pride in the United States of America, the type of pride that you can only have if you know how truly bad it can be elsewhere. We are blessed in this country. So blessed that we forget how good we have it.
The place my parents left is now worse than it was when they left 43 years ago. Sure some things are better. Everyone has medical care (although it is sub-standard and many die waiting for medicines and surgeries that the government can't afford to pay for), sure everyone has food (although it is rationed- certain portions of items per family, forcing many to go to the black market and pay high prices to feed their childern), sure everyone is educated now and everyone has equal opportunities (but there are no jobs and since pay is equal everyone is equally poor) and those in power continue to make empty promises and continue to keep the people under their control.
I told my son all of these things because I wanted him to know that his grandparents are successful not because anyone gave them anything but because they wanted to be. Because they made the difficult decision 43 years ago to not accept the change that they saw in their country but go forward and create a new life in a new land that promised them freedom.
We need to be good stewards of History and try our best to never forget the mistakes of the past. And not to repeat them. My parents understood, many years ago, that sacrifices have to be made for opportunity to happen. Nothing is free. But Freedom is priceless.