The Gift of Immigration

Mary Lou - Cleveland Hts., Ohio
Entered on February 18, 2009
Age Group: 65+
Themes: immigrant

I believe that the immigration of millions of people has been one of our country’s greatest strengths. I believe it has been mine. I am the fourth of six children born to Peter and Delia, who immigrated from North Ireland, carrying with them a centuries old history of terrible injustices and bigotry. As I grew up, I became so proud of my father coming first to find work and become a citizen, then five years later bringing

my mom over to marry. I have always been deeply touched by that fidelity and trust in each other that has carried me through life. Their faith in God, love of family, and sense of obligation to community is mine now. When difficulties arose in the family, there was very little shouting or saying mean things. They didn’t have parents or family to listen to complaints, nor did neighbors need to know, so matters blew over quickly. This was also passed onto us.

I decided on nursing as a career, which gave me the opportunity to work with many cultures, each person touching and teaching me. Gradually I took as my own the philosophy that from those who have been given much, much is expected. I began working with the newly arriving Puerto Rican in our community with a small church group. We helped get their children into schools, acquainted them with

health facilities, brought food and clothing to those in need, and had lively

Christmas parties. It was with this group I met my future husband., who was Puerto Rican.

A few years later when President Kennedy established the Peace Corps, with some trepidation I responded. I was deeply rewarded with two years working with the beautiful people of Honduras; tending to the sick, helping to bury the dead, becoming part of the community, and teaching healthier ways to live.

My involvement with Peace Corps and the Puerto Rican community opened up the eyes of my family, friends, and to all the groups to whom I spoke. Cleveland saw new leaders emerging with this new immigration, and soon bustling enlivened neighborhoods and businesses developed. We saw new restaurants, bakeries, music stores and art galleries. Our community became richer because of these.

My husband and I married, and my family loved his warm and kind ways. We had four lovely children,

and took a few trips to Puerto Rico to visit his very large family of Mami and fourteen siblings. We were

treated so generously and lovingly, and it has become a life long blessing for all of us. Each child is very

proud of his or her Irish-Puerto Rican family. They have grown and gone their separate ways, and took with them the vitality, values, spirit and beauty of the immigrant members of my family.

I believe my background and life has given me a wonderful appreciation of the gifts I have received from living with different races and cultures, and our communities benefit likewise. Each of us contribute

To the magnificent tapestry of our lives, weaving together gifts, joys, sorrow, problems and solutions.