For years I taught English as a Second language to teenaged students, mostly recent immigrants to this country. Our lives intersected for a brief amount of time and they may not remember me, but they left a lasting impression in my life.
One young boy from India marveled at the number of meals we ate in one day when his family was lucky to eat once. Another young man refused to turn in an autobiography, afraid of revealing what “he had to do” to escape Vietnam. Another one has haunted me to this day - a shy, undersized teen, the only son of a well-to-do Iraqi businessman, he cried when his family’s visa ran out in the late 1980’s and he had to return to his country to serve in the military. He was only fourteen.
Most of my ESL students came from poor families, and the most severe had never been inside a school before coming to America. At home, a daily existence took priority over schooling. Most sought a better or safer future, but some just wanted one.
Maybe that is how I should view the Fourth of July - not through sunglasses or with a sparkler in my hand, but with the eyes of an immigrant. I need to believe in the land of opportunity and refuge. I need to be grateful for the long list of privileges it has afforded me and to remember that I have never wanted for my basic freedoms.