This I Believe

Joe - Fresno, California
Entered on May 31, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: immigrant

I Am Deeply In Debt

I have always believed that somehow I need to show my appreciation for living in this country. This country is not the place of my origin yet nourished the shallow roots I now cherish. In 1962, I walked into this country with little or no knowledge of where I was or where I was going. I was too young to know. I held my mother’s hand; we crossed the bridge over “El Rio Grande,” and I didn’t smile at the camera which produced a now infamous “green card.” Holding on to this identification and safeguarding its existence was the hardest thing we ever did. Growing up, I have often thought about the form of generosity and compassion waiting for me to arrive everywhere I went. It seemed a path chosen for me and at each stop a source of subsistence was institutionalized so I could rise from my poverty. It seemed the roads were paved for me to reach California. I remember the extended family network miraculously connected and hospitable, the fields full with labor for my father and Mother, a functional labor camp, and the schools funded to develop my education. I have thought about the law and its jurisprudence that protected me, the ambulance rushing me to the burn unit, a welfare office my father dreaded, food stamps and cheese. As soon as I finished my hot lunches I received a diploma and joined the military. Again, I was no less confident in the ability of American Democracy to sustain my ambitions, dreams and direction. I boarded my first flight, touched down in San Antonio, Texas, and boarded a bus to boot-camp. I arrived to meet a very irritated drill sergeant who quickly and loudly instilled his values, organization, fortitude, and preparedness. With new clothes, shelter, three meals per day, and a new family, I was again ready to venture out and find my place in American society. I had reached adulthood, found a source of income and a purpose in life. After volunteering, the old GI bill was my college student loan, furnishing my room and board as a bachelor so that I could study in the library, eat with the student body and fall in love. It is fascinating that I have yet to find a bill in my mail box for all that I owe. I expect that it is a size-able itemized total, a burden to this country too great to recover, a weary ideal America is known for…I believe that I can only offer an empty pocket of thankfulness, citizenship and a heavy gratitude that my children can rise as pillars of their future communities.