This I Believe

Rodo - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on September 18, 2006

This I Believe

You Can Come Home to a Place You’ve Never Been Before

“Dodji! Dodji!” (“Come here! Come here!”), my mother yelled, in Serbian. Then she spurred us in German, “Schnell, schnell, kommt doch hier!” (“Hurry, hurry, come here!”) Between the two languages, I guess she thought we would listen to one.

My sister, Maria, and I wanted our legs to move in response to the thrill, but they were still a little shaky.

A few days before we were living in a refugee camp in Salzburg, Austria, wondering where we would be called home.

As we came to where my mother and father stood, the bow of the boat began to turn so that we could face and easily see our mighty greeter, the Statue of Liberty.

As I looked up at that magnificence, I deeply felt the passion described in the words of a song by John Denver that I learned later in life, “Coming home to a place he’d never been before.” After four years of fleeing from country to country, it was a relief to come home yet dreamlike when it was to a place we’d never been before.

Sure, we had to learn our third language and our fourth culture. Certainly, we would be far away from any family and friends. But we were being welcomed home, as well.

Coming to America, to a home we’d never been before, felt like being picked up, dusted off, and hugged after a bad fall; someone finally choosing us on their side for a big game; or new friends inviting us to play at their house.

Today, even more than when my childhood awe and security needs ruled my thoughts, I believe the U.S.A. welcomes people, from all over the world, home to a place they’ve never been before. We keep willing to help turn fear into hope. Those offers of opportunity coupled with the acceptance of responsibility are the bonds that nourish the American character.

This year is the Golden Anniversary of our awesome arrival. Fifty years in the U.S. and what a homecoming!

I want to hold a homecoming parade. I want to thank my benefactors and share with my friends. Like they have so many times before, the people I care about will continue to show unparalleled grace and mercy in opening their minds, arms, and especially their hearts to the kid from Montenegro.

But, I’m going to have to keep the parade and being homecoming king in my head. To those who care, except for my ‘interesting’ name, my integration is fairly complete. To them, I’m just another American.

So, today, as well as most every other day, I am very satisfied to just sit back and reflect on “being home”. Coming home to a place I’d never been before has given me much more than I ever hoped for.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize there are plenty of ‘motion sicknesses’ in the assimilation trip. However, other than sometimes more extreme, that feeling is not reserved to groups of immigrants, or individuals like me. It’s just a matter of degree. All of us have jarring bumps and blind curves on our life’s journeys.

Now, even more than when my childhood awe and security needs ruled my thoughts, I believe in the American soul; the spirit that is alive and well and says, “Welcome home, even if you’ve never been here before.”