By Becky Parkey
I don’t usually share my birthday but it is right around Christmas. Ever since I met my husband he has endeavored to make it as special as possible. The first year we were together he was going to ask me to marry him, but he was too excited to wait so he did it over a month early, but he still managed to make my birthday special. His love language is gifts, so he always finds the most special, meaningful gifts that he can. He doesn’t ever look at price (to my frustration sometimes) but regardless, he is absolutely completely the best at finding meaningful things for me.
This year was no different. When I opened up the first package (which I thought was socks because we have a joke about getting socks every year) he got me this super cute shirt that had my birth year on it and the lady flexing (like those old WWII signs). Super cute. Then came the second gift. To understand how special this was you have to know that I REALLY REALLY connect with my Scottish heritage. To me, it is a part of my DNA. I talk about it all the time, we talk about moving there when we retire, Scotland is very near and dear to me. With that being said, I opened the gift and there was this giant, VERY old (from the early 1800’s) book of Scottish and English poems and stories written for Queen Victoria. It was amazing! It smelled like an old book. (I LOVE BOOKS). As I flipped through it my heart fluttered. It was beautiful. He explained he had purchased this FIVE months ago! This is my husband. He does these kinds of things. Finds things that I would love and keeps them for when he wants to give them to me. He is very thoughtful.
He was not done. Several months ago he showed me that George W. Bush has paintings of immigrants that he had painted and they were put into a book. It is important to note, 1. I love GW. I know this may cause controversy, but I don’t really care. I think he is a kind, generous, loving person. I find a great appreciation for him. 2. I love what he represents. (Okay that’s all I’m going to say on that subject) When he found this book, Out of Many, One I became excited and enthralled. GW painted paintings on immigrants who were influential in America. To me, this was exciting and lovely. Little did I know that my sweet, loving husband would get this book for me, signed by GW. What is so beautiful about this book, and what is so wonderful about this gift, is I provide immigration evaluations to immigrants because I believe in what George says. “For nearly four centuries, immigration has been-as it will always be-a salient, and at times, controversial part of the American story. A source of strength, prosperity, and hope, the flow of people across the lands and seas has also led to bouts of anxiety and fear. Every American generation, and every American president, has confronted questions about immigration starting with the first. In 1783, George Washington articulated a guidepost for his successors: ‘The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions.’…Immigrants are just what they’ve always been-people willing to risk everything for the dream of freedom. And America remains what she has always been: the great hope on the horizon, an open door to the future, a blessed and promised land. We honor the heritage of all who come here, no matter where they come from, because we trust in our country’s genius for making us all Americans-one nation under God.”
George depicts forty-three immigrants in his paintings, and he tells their stories. Some of them are famous and some of them are simply important to him and his life. They all matter. What is valuable to me, and should be to all of us, is that he makes each one of these men and women individuals. They are people with a story, with family, with a background. They aren’t just a number and they matter. When I do my immigration evaluations I cry with the people I meet, I laugh with them, I understand them and their stories. They matter to me. We are all people who deserve freedom and we are all people who deserve to be in this place. Each person has value and each person should have a voice. Imagine what the world would be like if we all looked at each other through the eyes of love, kindness, support, and value first, and put our preconceived judgments aside. I wish we could live in a world like that, a country like that. I want to be that person so every day I try to show my students I teach, the people I encounter, and my family and friends that this is what I value. People…people are what matters.
Merry Christmas to all, and thank you to my husband for knowing me.