These are my kids, seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time last summer.
These children are good red-blooded Americans. Which means their genetic code is a patchwork produced by immigrants. They are here because a religiously persecuted sect called the Schwenkfelders fled Germany in the 1700s and settled in Pennsylvania. And they are here because another group seeking religious freedom left Sweden and settled in Minnesota. Their immigrant ancestors also include English and Irish, French, Spanish and Scot; and one Austrian grandmother on my side who by family accounts remained an undocumented immigrant her entire life. My children also have at least one non-immigrant ancestor, from the Native American Choctaw tribe.
I don’t know what my kids are up to in this photo – I took it but I didn’t pose it and I don’t recall if I knew what they were doing (maybe trying to catch bird poop?!), but just now, I like to imagine that the immigrants who made them are rising up and reaching out through them, towards that hope of freedom, a new start, a land of opportunity. I like seeing the sun shining on their young hands, and I hold out hope that love and compassion and courage will flow through those hands as they grow up in this deeply divided nation and inevitably encounter suffering, unkindness, and injustice in many forms.
And I pray for their mother to let them inspire her, to speak up and stand up for the vulnerable, to help them make their way peacefully and bravely in this world, to not be afraid.
And for today’s immigrants, in so many ways so like my own ancestors and my husband’s, and those of my neighbors, of my friends, of so very many of my fellow Americans – I pray peace, safety, freedom, and opportunity. And I stand with them, on the legs I inherited from immigrants, their hopes and dreams still alive in me – and in these children.