Last week I stood on the back deck of a trailer home and listened to a Puerto Rican family tell me that they were getting ready to move to Harrisburg. The trailer they were renting needed to be open for the migrant workers that were to arrive within a week or so. The mother was not angry that she had to move. She knew the day was coming. Her arrangement was temporary.
However, she was quite dismayed at the lack of services available to non-english speakers in the area. She had exhausted them all (2) in her search for a new home or apartment. There was nowhere to go.
She did not want to go. She loved looking out her back door and seeing rolling hills filled with fruit trees. Canadian geese would stop and swim in the little pond just beyond the gentle slope beside the dirt driveway. The mountains in the background would cast a purple-blue color in the warm glow of the mid-afternoon sun.
She explained to me that she and her family had come in hope of finding work. They wanted to make money.
When I asked her what her impressions were of my country, she said it’s a nice place to live, there is work, but also that it is expensive and that the people are not friendly.
I asked her what she meant by the people not being friendly. She went on to say that people here don’t have good hearts, they don’t want to talk to her, they do not welcome her, she feels that people don’t want her to be here,…
She continued by comparing it to life in Puerto Rico. She told me that everyone is welcome to come to her country. Her door is always open. She will give food, coffee, whatever.
While listening to her tell of her experience here, I couln’t help but think of my experience in Honduras. She was right. To me, her words were truth. There was no refuting what she had said.
I wasn’t sure what to say to her. It seemed she was satisfied just by being able to let someone know what she was feeling.
Today, I am trying to come to terms with the twenty minutes or so that I shared with her. I remember thinking that the American dream is still alive. She is proof to that. She is what built, builds and will build this country.
I think of my ancestors and imagine they may have had similar experiences. How did they find a home? Work?
I think too of the migrant workers and the fruit they pick. I love to eat apples and peaches. Would I be willing to work all day in an orchard? Would you? My immediate response is “not a chance”.
Returning to the back porch…While there, I had the following thought:
“After going halfway down the hemisphere, I realize now that all the world is right here before me. There is no need–other than to return–to go to far-off lands.”
It’s true. Here is there.
(written 19 March 2000)