Do you remember when I blogged about marijuana? I told a story that only I could tell. I told a story about what I have learned about marijuana from the people in my life who have used marijuana. I didn’t pretend to know the right laws to pass, and how to proceed in the bigger world. I just said that what I have witnessed is the destruction of bright, talented teenage boys who have decided they love marijuana enough to marry it. Or, at least, trade it for their future.
I said that maybe legalizing marijuana will do what some folks say. Maybe all sorts of problems will be solved when legalizing marijuana happens. That’s how I’ve heard the story spun. So be it. Maybe those pro-legalization folks are right. But, I can’t change what I have seen.
I will continue to tell my kids that even if they see marijuana Twinkies on the shelves at Wal Mart, don’t be fooled. (And, really, you shouldn’t be eating Twinkies anyway.) Marijuana puts exciting, adventurous, productive young lives at risk. I’ve seen it.
My viewpoint on immigration is also colored by my own experience. Really, do we have anything else? I’m not impartial.
It’s interesting to me that my thoughts on immigration have also been formed by taking part in the lives, and building friendships with teenage boys. I should thank my husband for bringing these kids into our lives. I’ve learned a lot from them.
I’ve been trying to listen to the larger immigration debate. I’ll tell you straight up, I don’t have a handle on it. I don’t know all the issues, and I don’t know who is right and who is wrong. I can’t imagine being in a position of having to sort it all out. It’s a lot.
My personal stance on immigrants is that I love them. Or, at least, I love the immigrants I know. I never realized these kids I know are immigrants. I just thought they were awesome kids. They are just kids I like with fewer privileges than most, and kids who work really hard.
One day , Scott asked me if I could give one of these young guys a ride home from wrestling practice. This boy usually rode his bike to practice in the early morning, and home at night. I assumed he lived in town. He didn’t. He lived eight miles away. Morning practices start at 6:30. Wrestling is in the winter. In Wisconsin.
When I dropped this boy off, I could see that our modest house was luxurious in comparison with where this boy lived. After I dropped this boy off, I had a rare experience. I had no words.
Later, when I was freaking out and telling Scott how amazing this kid was for riding his bike to practice, Scott said he knew. He also told me that the gears on this guy’s bike weren’t even working properly. The bike was stuck in a high gear, making the hills on this boy’s route even harder.
We found that boy a better bike after that, and made sure he had rides (in a car) as often as possible. Because really, how many Americans don’t have extra bikes in the garage? Not many.
My kids were young, and in the car with me when I gave that boy a ride home. On the way home, after my words came back, I started wishing I could make that boy understand that my kids were better people for knowing him. I was grateful to him for teaching my kids and me about how to work harder and be more appreciative. I was hoping I could some how pay him back for that.
This boy is just one of Scott’s many friends who came from, or who had parents who came from Mexico. We’re lucky to know these people.
Most of these guys we know through wrestling. Many times, these boys end up having to quit the team before their senior year. These boys apologize, and tell Scott they wish they could stay on the team, because they love it. But, sadly, they can’t. These boys have jobs, and families who need whatever income these boys can provide.
Some of these boys have made it to their senior year. Some how their families were able to sacrifice the boys’ earning potential, and allow the boys to have this American wrestling experience. I’d like to get to know the parents of these boys better, and hopefully be friends. But, I don’t know most of these parents, because I never see them. These parents work 7 days a week cleaning offices and hotels, and working in factories.
We have received thank you gifts from one single mom, for helping her boys. Jeesh. I’m embarrassed to even write that. Can you believe it? I want to tell that Mom this, “I know you are as fiercely devoted to your children as I am to mine. I know that you would do anything to protect your kids and help them succeed in life. I know that you would love to watch your kids wrestle, if you could. But, you have to make a choice to feed and shelter your boys over watching them wrestle. I’m sorry that I get to watch our kids while you work. That isn’t fair. I hate to ask anything of you, but could I ask you to PLEASE just let me be the one who is grateful?
I’m grateful to you, because you inspire me. I hope that if I was in your situation I would have the grit and determination to do everything within my power to give my kids a good life. I hope I wouldn’t feel sorry for myself, but I think that maybe I would I see what you are doing, and I love you for it. We are the ones who owe YOU a gift. We owe you a gift for the lessons you’ve brought into our lives. Valuable lessons are worth more than any possessions.”
I like living in my world. I like a world where my kids get to be friends with people who speak a different language, and who can teach them about another culture. It would be excellent if our family had the resources and time to travel to other countries and see families living in other cultures in person. That’s NOT our life. Our life is here, in a small town in Wisconsin. So, I thank God for finding another way for us.
One boy from Mexico brought this home to Scott from his last trip to Mexico.
This is a popular cartoon character in Mexico. His name is El Chavo. A large plastic version of this guy sat proudly in our living room all summer. Scott, finally took him to his classroom. I’m not gonna lie and say I was sad to see him go. He was a little out of place with our current decor. But, he was fun, and we loved that our friend shared part of his world with us.
I heard an American politician on the radio this week say that he was only in favor of keeping immigrants who were highly skilled. He thought the rest should be sent back. I heard and a I listened to this politician. He certainly has a right to believe what he believes, and he has the right to express himself. He’s probably a good guy. But, he is NOT speaking for me. There isn’t anything about his statement that fits my experience. Truthfully, I am repelled by his sentiments. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like him as person, but there it is.
I was thinking I’d better speak for myself.
I know there should be laws to organize immigration, but, if you ask me what my opinion is, I will tell you ALL are welcome. If it were up to me, I would tell immigrants that of course you can live in the United States, if you’d like. We gotta be organized about it, but we’re glad you came. And, honestly, I didn’t realize the permission was mine to grant. The United States isn’t really mine, you know. I don’t own it. This is just the country where God decided I should be born.
One of the boys from Mexico that we know is becoming an adult now. He’s going to a trade school full time, and working full time too. He is working and going to school 7 days a week, trying to make a better life for him and his little brothers. I’m not sure if that politician I mentioned would consider this young man a “highly skilled” person, or not. But, this young man is my friend. We watched him grow up, and helped him understand all the things you could do in the United States to make a better life for yourself. He’s doing everything Scott suggested he do, and more.
I would like to embrace opportunity, and work as hard as this young friend of ours. I don’t think he’s been given anything that he hasn’t returned with interest. I want to live in a world with guys like this, and in a world that welcomes them. And that’s just what my life has taught me about immigration.