Denise and I were celebrating our 45th Wedding Anniversary by going to Manhattan for the first time as a married couple. The amazing adventure is another story in itself. With all the “cab” rides we took, we engaged most of our drivers in conversation. Every one of them came from foreign countries. One fella, Ivan was really interesting; married with two pre-teen daughters and a wife who worked for a dermatologist. Now, this story is only properly significant if you can mentally put a strong Russian accent on him.
I asked him where in Russia he was from and he said [remember the cool accent please], “The mountains of Russia. Do you know where Ural Mountains are?” When we told him we did, he was very pleased. “My mother and father still live there. I want my mother to come visit me but she is frightened of airplanes. My father was here last year. We had a nice time. When I spoke to my mother a few nights ago to ask her to come and visit, she was crying. So I will go back to see her.” When I commented about his very good English he said, “I took classes when I came six years ago and I like to talk with customers to help with my English. My friend lives in Russian area in Brooklyn. You know, in Brooklyn, people have areas of their own people. There are Jews, Italians, Chinese, many people. My friend only talks with Russians. After six years, all he can say in English is ‘ay-low’. I tell him he is stoopid. He must learn how talk and how to live here. You know, this is my country. I must get better and better.”
I was stunned. I quickly realized I have never heard anyone say that before: “This is my country”. Suddenly I thought how amazing is it that we are many people’s lifelong dream to come to America? I was flooded with my first rush of pride that I am in the most desirable country in the world. I know, of course we have plenty to work and improve upon. I know we are far from perfect. Nevertheless, to say with pride and deep affection, “This is my country” is profound, and we are blessed.