DEAR READERS: Happy Independence Day! I trust that you are enjoying your family and friends on this special day that marks the freedom that America promises all of us every day. We all have stories and memories of the Fourth of July.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of my husband and his sister moving to the United States from Jamaica. They were part of the Caribbean migratory wave that began many years ago. When my husband recalls that pivotal period of time, he talks about how his grandmother, Luna, decided -- at the very time that she could have considered retiring -- it was time to make a better life for her family. In her mid-60s, she got a sponsor who invited her to move to the United States to work for the family. This is what allowed her legal entry.
Soon after, my husband’s mother joined, also being sponsored by this family. It would be three long years before my husband and his sister, who was six years younger than him, would see their family again. They were left in the care of family and friends, but the path to bringing family over was long and arduous. George spent three of his formative years without his parents’ supervision. From ages 11 to 14, he had to be the man of the family, to look out for his baby sister and to be responsible all around. Those were tough years, but the bonds of love between him and his sister and with their mother and grandmother were strong.
Coming to America literally did mark independence for the two of them. They both went to art schools and have gone on to build dynamic careers and families. They have Luna’s vision to thank for the opportunity to expand their horizons. They came to this country on the Fourth of July, and my husband still remembers the feeling he had as the plane landed and he began to imagine what his future would hold.
The promise of America is palpable. Apart from Native Americans -- whose legacy started here -- and African descendants -- whose ancestors were captured and brought here against their will -- EVERYBODY else has descended from immigrants, from people who chose to come to this country to create a better life for themselves. The effort is always tremendous. The reward is invariably worth it.
I think of the many people who have set America as their North Star, as their beacon of hope for creating a better life. While I know that not everyone can come here to live, I yearn for a more pleasant, humane way of managing immigration. It is important for all of us to understand that most of the people who make their way to our country do so because they are praying for the freedom and opportunity that this country offers. Many who come here desperately want to escape persecution, poverty or oppression. I invite us all to practice kindness and compassion toward those who want what we have.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)