I met a man from Africa while waiting for the bus today. He’d been living in the U.S. for the last three years though he is originally from Nigeria. He’s in his 50s and working on his Master’s. He asked my name and what I do, I told him I’m also getting a Master’s. He asked if I was from Pittsburgh and I told him I was from Nebraska. We talked a bit about how some states are more well known than others internationally, and then he said something that I think I needed to here.
He said that the amazing thing about America is that you can move to a completely different state, yet you are still home. You still belong. The laws are the same (the essential ones.) you don’t have to worry about a green card or the right papers. Interestingly enough, I’d been feeling a little home sick recently. Not horribly bad, but just missing the familiar. This man’s comments made me realize that we are pretty lucky that way.
On the bus, I asked him if he would be staying in America once he finished his degree. He said absolutely. He planned to stay here for a very long time. Once again he said something I needed to hear. He began talking about how he has noticed that so many Americans have forgotten the opportunity that can be found in America when looking at other countries. The freedom here gives us amazing opportunities. Our country is extremely wealthy and the foundation that the forefathers laid was a strong one. But he also talked about how wasteful we are because we can’t see how lucky we are. He said all this more eloquently than I am, but I wasn’t recording the conversation.
With all of the division in this country, it leaves us entitled and blind to the chances that we were born into. We take our basic freedoms for granted. My new friend also said something else, our freedom that we have in America allows us to be the most creative country in the world. The best technology and inventions because we don’t have someone telling us who to be or how much we can attain. As he said, unlike countries like China or even Nigeria where freedom is much more limited.
By the time we came to his stop, I don’t think he knew the impact of our conversation. It’s rare to be able to see how America is viewed by others. The American dream in its purest form still exists. I was reminded of how my ancestors must have felt when they saw the American shore for the first time. Regardless of the current situation and how bad everyone says things are here (and I’m not denying that we have problems) we still are in a better position than so many others. I was reminded of that today and I hope that this is a reminder to you too.