Graduation Day by Corey Almond

Graduation for the English Language class this year was the most multicultural event I’ve been to lately. Not the kind where you watch a movie and talk about other cultures with wine and cheese, but one with people who come from places around the globe. The students in our classes each know a world completely apart from the one we in the United States inhabit. One in which their mother gathered beans from a borrowed plot of ground a half-mile from the house. Or one in which the family walked for days over the dessert to find a refugee camp in a neighboring country. However, there is often one part of the experience of coming to the United States that is shared: having to leave behind one’s home, being torn away from what is known, familiar, loved.

At the graduation, two Russian women shared for us a little of what that is like. We broke from ice cream and the presentation of certificates of attendance for the performance of a few folk songs. “This one is about love, sort of…not love like man/woman…you will see,” was the introduction from a woman who long ago was a music director at her church in Russia. Too nervous ever to speak English before classes, now she was getting up in front of a group of 40 to introduce her songs. The two women broke out into a raw harmony that exposed an unalterable affection for what was lost in the move to America. No one knew the words, and yet she had been right in the introduction. We did understand. We understood that she harbored an incredible love for her homeland and for the things she had known growing up, however proud she was to be an American.

It is not easy to leave the land you call home, especially when you must. But that we are the land of promise is a notion alive in the hearts of our immigrants, with the singular wish to feed, clothe and educate their children. God calls each of us to open our hearts to see the hopes and hardships of our brothers and sisters everywhere, especially those who come to us at the end of a long journey, leaving all that they know behind.

Corey Almond is Vice President of Family Immigration Services and Parish Social Ministries

~ by strangerswelcomed on May 24, 2011.

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