I wrote this essay awhile ago, in response to Trump’s cruelty at the Mexican border. Posting it finally now in response to the incredible kindness of the staff at Walker’s Clearbrook group home as they ‘shelter in place’ bravely and lovingly with Walker and his friends.
Who can join us in America? Let me choose.
After all, I’m as American as they come. The first bit of me arrived on Virginia’s shore in 1700 with a Huguenot escaping religious persecution in France. Other Ellen DNA resided in several Revolutionary War soldiers, a drummer boy at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Mix in Native American women they married. And on from there.
So, I’m a true American. If anyone gets to say who belongs here, I do. My vote? Give me the newly arrived. And the more different from me, the better.
Living for years in Lakeview, Chicago’s epicenter of all things different, my husband and I discovered that we love the ‘different’ that our various friends and neighbors bring to life.
In recent years, our appreciation of people unlike us – especially those from what our hateful President calls ‘s—hole countries’ – shifted into high gear when our son Walker, now in his 30’s, moved into Elaine House, a Clearbrook group home for guys with autism staffed mostly by newly-arrived African and Jamaican immigrants.
Here we found, one after the other, the best people we have ever met. Working terrible hours, often double shifts, for low wages, these recent immigrants patiently make life possible for complicatedly-disabled young men, some in diapers, some throwing fits.
Again and again, these former ‘s—hole country’ residents have shown us what being a real human really means. Every day, our son and the other guys are treated to hugs, handshakes, high-fives, smiles, shared laughter and real love from these big-hearted immigrants. When we take Walker back to his house after a weekend outing, he hurries inside with a huge, expectant grin on his face.
I don’t take this for granted. Previously, Walker lived in a group home run by pure white, standard Americans. There, he was ignored, abused, even became malnourished while the staff watched tv.
The more I learn about new immigrants, the more I admire them.
After reading Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime, I became curious about how many languages the African staffers at Elaine House speak.
So, I asked.
Theo? 5. Oh, wait, do you mean also African languages, Ellen? Then, 11.
And you, Ellen?
Um. Just English and a few words in French.
Oh! Then, we can speak French together!
No, we can’t….That is, I can’t.
Get to know new immigrants – the newer the better – and you will find you agree with me. And forget Trump’s idea that a good immigrant can stand on his own two feet, needs no assistance. Walker’s staff friend Femi has a new baby boy. His little son is still crawling and being spoon fed, but America definitely needs his bright smile.
Let’s open our doors wide to immigrants coming from troubled parts of the world. We need every bit of their courage, kindness, intelligence, and drive if America is to achieve its goal of being the land of the free and the home of the brave.