This I Believe

Donna - Gastonia, North Carolina
Entered on August 4, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: immigrant

When we help immigrants succeed, we help ourselves.

I was born and raised in the U.S. and my son and I moved to Canada in 1978. We became immigrants. I had it fairly easy because the systems were similar and so was the language. I could figure out where to get questions answered and we managed to assimilate.

In 1995 I moved back to the U.S. and became an immigrant again. In those 18 years, everything had changed and I was accustomed to the Canadian system, so I had to figure out everything again. This assimilation was more difficult than the earlier one.

I know how hard it was for me to find everything here and can only imagine the difficulties for people with limited English and from entirely different cultures.

I sold insurance and houses for the next few years and met many immigrants trying to attain some of the American dreams and having a very hard time. Using their 10 year old children to translate what life insurance is for and why they should buy it, is uncomfortable to say the least. It is heart breaking to tell an excited young family that having a shoe box full of cash for a down payment is not all they need to buy a house – they also need a credit history.

New immigrants are trying to adapt to life here and struggle every day to fit in. I hope more Americans will put themselves in their position for a little while and try to understand their problems. The old adage about walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins seems to apply here.

This I believe; when new immigrants succeed, we all benefit and some of the benefits are immediate.

The checkout line at the grocery store moves faster when I help the woman ahead of me understand the cashier’s question or make change. This might also help her learn a couple more words of English, which helps too.

I don’t have children in school anymore, but I know teachers want parents to be more involved in their children’s schools. Many immigrants come from countries where the schools did not want the parents to be involved and they don’t realize how important it is here. I hope parents are telling their immigrant neighbors about open house and parent-teacher meetings. All schools are better schools when more parents are involved.

When I’m friendly to my new neighbors, they learn how to fit in and there is less friction. Many of them come from entirely different cultures and have to be shown how to fit into ours. A community of good neighbors, helping each other, has less crime and drugs and the neighborhood is safer. If I help my neighbors this time, I’m sure they will be helping me next time.

This is our country, we have a responsibility to help new residents learn how to live here. They will learn by example and friendliness and I hope all Americans believe that.

This country was built by immigrants and it will always be a country of immigrants. Everything in our daily lives works better when new immigrants assimilate, just like our ancestors did, and become Americans.

This I believe: our country will be safer and stronger and we will all benefit when new immigrants succeed.