This is the first Independence Day our African-born son will be in the U.S. He doesn’t know anything about George Washington or the Declaration of Independence, but I can already tell he’s beginning to appreciate his new country. Because in order to truly appreciate anything, you have to know what life is like without it.
Our son likes us to tell him the story of how he came to live with us in America. With his limited English, the story is short and to the point. It goes something like this: (You’ll have to imagine the charades-like actions that go along with it.)
“Mama and Papa got on a plane and flew to Congo. The next day, Ezra came to us at the hotel. Then, after a few days, Mama and Papa and Ezra went to the airport. We rode on three planes (This is his favorite part). On the first plane, Ezra slept like a baby. On the second plane, Ezra was crazy! He would not sleep. He did not want to sit down with his seatbelt fastened. On the last plane, Ezra slept again but just for a little bit. Then Papa carried sleepy Ezra off the plane and his whole family was waiting for him!”
Anytime we’ve been in the car for an extended amount of time, there’s a bit of confusion involved. He needs to be told and retold who is coming and where exactly we’re going and how long we’ll be there. When we first arrived in Lynchburg, Tennessee for half a week of church camp at the beginning of the summer, Ezra sat in the rec hall and asked me, “Mama, America?” He wasn’t so sure where that church bus had taken him.
America isn’t perfect. There are things about our country that are frustrating. Groups of people still don’t receive equal treatment. Those with wealth have greater opportunities for education and healthcare and general happiness than those without.
Even considering these possible disadvantages, an American is far better off than so many in this world. We may complain about our leaders (Don’t even get me started about this upcoming presidential election) but at least we get the people we vote for. If they’re horrible, then it’s our fault and a new election process will come in a few years and we can start again. So many citizens of other nations aren’t truly allowed to vote, even for a bad leader. They have no recourse for corrupt government practices. Their situation seems hopeless.
I’m grateful for the nation of my birth. I’m proud to be a citizen of the United States. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. Seeing this privilege from the vantage of our son who will soon become as a U.S. citizen, I can understand a little better the beauty of this gift.