And me, thinking as a child how lucky my father was for having two jobs not knowing he was working as a janitor at a Boston hospital at the 4-midnight shift and during the day using his beat up (donated) Rambler as a school bus with the type of sign on the roof that could flip down when the car was not used as a school bus. This was a man who was second in command of the hydro-electric projects on the entire island of Java!
At school, I as the only brown faced child (with only three dresses to my name) in an all white school,. I was also not welcomed with open arms. Thank you Mr. Cornetta and my best friend to this day, Bonnie Graham Lunardi, for making my school year bearable and making me forget the taunts of others.
My sisters who were older than I was and who had gone through nursing school in Holland and were in their late teens when we arrived in America, could not find work except as nurse’s aides. Their nursing degrees were also not honored. We were so poor that my parents couldn’t afford the $15 for their nursing shoes required by the hospital before starting their jobs. My mother went to the only shoe store in Watertown Square and asked the owner if they could buy the shoes on a payment plan…$5 per week. Thank you Mr. Shoe Store Owner because of your kindness my sisters could work and help support the family. My sisters had to take the bus and then the train into Boston to work each day.
My mother would wait for them at the bus stop every payday and they would march directly to the shoe store each Thursday for three weeks to make the payments. It was my father and my mother’s strong faith in God and their deep and never failing gratitude to this country that set an example for my three sisters and I that would stay with us throughout our lives.
So when I think of the refugees, I think of all the millions of families like mine who made this country great. I think of the millions of us children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of the emigrants and refugees who helped make this country great. And then, I also think of the Native Americans…I give them my gratitude for having suffered and lost much of their country and not holding it against us. You deserve all our thanks, all of us who have benefited from your land.