Escape from the Rat Race

ratrace1The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. – Lily Tomlin

I was a full fledged member of the rat race for most of my life. I’d leave home before sunrise and often did not return until after dark. I would hurriedly throw together dinner or maybe even bring home burgers or fried chicken if I was really tired. Most evenings I graded papers and did lesson planning until nine or ten while running loads of wash and getting my daughters settled with their homework. My husband Mike was engaged in a similar whirlwind of work activity during the week. On weekends we cleaned, mowed and repaired and somehow managed to find a bit of time for visiting with friends and family. So it went year after year until we one day ended our labors and retired.

We were not unlike most of the people that we knew. Everyone was seemingly rushing somewhere, part of that great rat race that consumes so much of our lives. Little wonder that at the end of our toil we had grown fat and out of shape. Being healthy takes time and attention and we were barely able to fit all of our responsibilities into our calendars. The prospect of spending time that we didn’t have to shop for healthy foods and then prepare them was overwhelming, and so we often opted for frozen items that allowed us to just pop our dinner into the oven without additional effort. The weight came on us in such small increments that we hardly noticed the real expansion of our girths.

Now and again we resolved to do better. We joined Weight Watchers online or paid for membership in an exercise program or a gym. We’d do well for a time and then a rush of activities would overtake our best intentions. Those night time meetings at school or the big project at work stole away yet a bit more of our time. We were exhausted from juggling so many balls and running so constantly. It was easier to set our personal goals aside and just go with the flow that always felt so hectic but was at least familiar.

I’d get a routine of weekend meal preparation going and my mother would become ill. I’d have to tend to her needs rather than spending time in my kitchen being a nutritionist. I’d try again and again but there always seemed to be something that was more demanding of my attention. I’d just keep running on that little hamster wheel telling myself that one day I would finally find the time to do the kinds of things that would make me a stronger, healthier person. Of course that day never really came, at least not until I was face to face with a life and death situation. At that point I understood the folly of my ways.

I’ve spoken of my new found efforts to concentrate more on the well being of my body and that of my husband. His stroke has shown us that a lifetime of running at full tilt and ignoring the warning signs that we were abusing our health has lead to conditions that need not have occurred. We may be a day late and a dollar short, but now we are changing our ways in earnest. Still I have to wonder why we ignored this incredibly important facet of living for so long. In the name of being good employees, faithful family members and loyal friends we time and again put our own needs behind everyone and everything else. In retrospect it was a foolish choice.

I am reminded of the instructions for flying in which the adult passengers are always told to put the oxygen on themselves before helping their children. The reason is quite simple. If the adult passes out, he/she is of little use to the youngster. In other words it is up to each of us to prioritize the healthful habits that we need so that we will then be able to take care of everything else. If only our society emphasized this important idea regarding our health as well as the airlines do with respect to oxygen perhaps we would all be better. Sadly we openly encourage participation in the rat race as the ultimate goal of life.

I have worked for many different organizations and bosses. Some of them understood the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal needs. They were compassionate with employees who required time to heal themselves and even encouraged everyone to take care of home life first. On the other hand I have been employed by people who seemed to believe that the best workers were the ones who were willing to sacrifice home, hearth and family for the good of the firm. They voraciously ate up most of the hours in the day and chastised anyone who dared to suggest that the work was not their main priority. I watched the employees in such places fall apart both physically and mentally. Unfortunately it is not all that uncommon for people to find themselves in situations that slowly but surely begin to beat them down.

I know all too well how difficult it is to be an exemplary employee, an outstanding parent, a good daughter, a devoted wife and also someone who cares for herself. I have been a bonafide member of the rat race and I know how debilitating it can be. In the midst of the daily run it is often difficult to even know where the pack is leading. We just follow out of habit and tell ourselves that it is the right thing to do because we have been taught from birth to follow that old ethic that we achieve success through hard work, discipline and sacrifice. The trouble is that we  misinterpreted the idea when we set aside the aspects of living that make our bodies and minds function more efficiently.

One thing that I appreciate about the younger generation is that more of them appear to understand the importance of good nutrition and regular exercise. They create blocks of time to take care of themselves and that is a very good routine to develop. I have a grandson for example who schedules his time in the gym just as he does his college classes. Exercising is a regular part of his day that is as important to him as eating, sleeping and studying. If he maintains those kind of habits for a lifetime I suspect that he will have fewer health problems later. He is quite wise to set his priorities now so that they become second nature.

I suppose that it is never too late to change and I am certainly in the process of doing so. I’ve learned from my own mistakes and I don’t plan to turn back. If I were to give a single bit of advice to those of you who still find yourselves being torn asunder by the stresses of daily living, it would be to jealously guard  the special times devoted to the sole purpose of making yourselves healthier in body and mind. You may have to learn how to say no to some of the multitude of requests that come your way, but stand tall and don’t let anyone intimidate you. Step away from the rat race and you will finally see the road ahead.   

A Knock at the Door

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It was nine thirty on a Saturday night. We were watching a Poirot mystery on television when there was a loud knock at our door. By the time I walked down the hallway to peek outside whoever had been there was gone. I had just settled back into my chair when there was another banging noise. This time I dashed to the entryway more quickly and turned on the porch light. I saw two young boys who appeared to be around fourteen or fifteen years old. One of them sprinted away quickly and the other stood like a deer in the headlights exclaiming his sorrow for bothering us and adding that he was just trying to sell Girl Scout cookies. Of course I understood immediately that we had been pranked. I sensed that the boy who didn’t manage to get away was someone I had seen in the neighborhood. He seemed very familiar and the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that he often plays basketball just down the street with a number of his friends.

There was a time when teenage mischief was almost a right of passage. My own girls wrapped houses with toilet paper and celebrated when our home was decorated with long strands of tissue as well. I did a bit of knocking on doors and making silly phone calls in my time. Such tricks are generally done with no ill intentions and I suspect that the young boys who visited our home were just continuing the tradition of being silly on a Saturday night. Nonetheless I found myself quite troubled after our surprise visitors had left, not so much because they had bothered me, but because I worried about what might happen to them if they continue their nighttime visits to other homes.

The world is not the same as it once was. When I was young we rarely locked the doors to our home until just before going to bed. Even then we slept with our bedroom windows wide open because our home was not air conditioned. The only thing between us and a home invader was a screen which might have easily been removed. In those days it never even occurred to us to worry that someone might attempt to do us harm while we were dreaming. Our world seemed so innocent and safe.

Now we live in times of uncertainty. We hear of criminals breaking into houses on a regular basis. There is fear in people’s minds. Many of them install cameras and alarms to warn them of danger. Others add an arsenal of guns and ammunition to their security program in case they need to defend themselves. Doors are now routinely locked all day long. In some ways we act as though our castles are under siege, and I suppose that it is rather prudent to be safe rather than sorry. The problem is that in such an environment individuals may act before they have all of the facts. Those same outrageous boys who came to my door might find themselves on the wrong side of a gun if they hit a home with a very nervous and excitable person inside. They might literally be injured or even killed all because they thought it was funny to scare people.

Years ago two of my daughter’s friends decided to pull a prank on her. They dressed in dark ninja style clothing and crept up to our back window and peered inside while we were watching a movie. Since I recognized them immediately their joke backfired. I was livid, not because I did not have a sense of humor, but because I knew for a fact that many of my neighbors were armed and would not have hesitated to shoot at strangers wearing dark masks while creeping through the dark of night. I scolded the boys for their stupidity while my heart raced at the thought of what might have happened to them had they been seen by someone who did not realize who they were. I was upset that they had been so unthinking.

I feel the same way about the two boys who were out having fun when they targeted our home. I know from an online neighborhood chat room that there have been several incidents of strangers knocking at night to determine if anyone is at home. So far nobody has been robbed or hurt but the comments that people make regarding what their response will be if anyone threatens their personal space make me realize that those boys are at great risk. Many of my neighbors insist that they will call the police. Others assert that they will shoot first and ask questions later. Such is the reality of today’s world, and such is the danger that the boys might encounter.

On that chat line I asked parents of teenagers to have a talk with their children emphasizing that they should not engage in reckless behaviors. I would be gravely upset if I learned that the young people were hurt or killed, but I would also understand why someone might overreact when they feel threatened. It’s up to teachers and parents to instruct the young on the folly of pranks that involve frightening people. What may have once seemed to be innocent fun is likely to be interpreted as a reason for defense in today’s environment.

Teenagers’ brains are still developing. They often do things that are more risky than they ought to be. I was the quintessential good girl and yet I also engaged in adventures that in retrospect might have resulted in great harm to me and my friends. I once crawled under the fence of a property where trucks were stored near my grandmother’s house. An armed guard roamed the area. I had no business in there but I thought it was exciting to be able to come and go without being caught. My antics were silly but they gave me a rush, made me laugh and felt liberating. It never once occurred to me that I might have been in danger.

It is imperative that we speak frankly to our kids before we let them lose on the world at large. Sometimes we shelter them because we do not want them to be fearful when we might be wiser to discuss the realities of various situations in which they may find themselves. We need to be frank with them about peer pressure and how to extricate themselves from situations that feel uncomfortable or wrong. We should discuss how to behave if they are stopped by the police. Just as most parents practice fire drills and show their kids where to go if a tornado hits, so too must we review the skills they will need when they are not with us.

Time and again experiments show that our children just don’t think when danger is lurking. They go with strangers to look for a lost dog. They follow other kids into strange places. They simply have not internalized the necessary skills for keeping themselves safe because we haven’t instructed them as well as we should.

We certainly don’t want to make our teenagers paranoid. Most of the time they will be just fine. What we must do is provide them with the survival tools they will need in those rare cases when things just don’t seem right to them. If we have practiced such things and given them the reasons why they should be vigilant and resourceful they should be okay.

I can’t help thinking about the two visitors to my home and wondering if they are still engaged in an activity that may one day end in tragedy. I hope that perhaps their parents will be informed by someone who knows them and that they will put a stop to their dangerous behavior. It’s sad that we have reached this point, but it is the new normal. It’s up to us to instruct our youth and then hope that they remember what we have taught them.

Choose Love

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Well over a year ago I wrote a blog that outlined my concerns about the Alt-Right. It was not a particularly well received piece. In fact it was one of those days when my topic of choice was obviously not something that my readers wanted to consider. I had written it after being totally shocked by an article that outlined the despicable nature of the members of this fringe group. I had learned that they were so out of mainstream thinking that most of them hated even rather conservative Republicans whom they described with words so disturbing that I chose not to include them in my essay. I simply alluded to the filth that comes from their lips, but I also warned that they were warming up to then candidate Trump and that he had failed to denounce them. My purpose in writing the piece was to make people more aware of the presence of hatred so vile that it should be shunned by every American. Sadly it appeared that my words fell on mostly deaf ears and I returned to writing feel good blogs that skirted mention of the evil that exists in our midst.

The events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend have at long last shed an unflinching light on the horrific nature of the Alt Right and other neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups who have been gaining power even while most of us ignored their existence. We have seen with the precision that only a camera can capture just how crazed they are. The images of these people parading through Charlottesville carrying torches, chanting unbearably hateful slogans and raising their arms in imitation of the Nazi salute has surely sickened most Americans. The fact that this rally ended in the tragedy of terror and murder only compounds the disgust that we should all be feeling. Unfortunately at the very moment when President Trump might have roundly condemned this domestic poison, he chose to water down his remarks by offhandedly noting that there is hatred on both sides, thus missing the mark and the reality of what had happened. This did not surprise me, but it certainly disappointed me. The swamp of his ignorance appears to be deeper than the extent of his thinking.

There was no reasonable response to the tragedy other than to condemn the Alt-Right and the other white supremacist groups without any excuses. These are people whose hatred goes far beyond wanting to keep Confederate monuments in place. They want to redesign the very fabric of our nation. In their minds minorities of all races and ethnicities should be silenced and possibly even eliminated. In their warped universe even Catholics and Jews are inferior beings who don’t deserve to coexist with them. This is the truth about them, and yet very little has been written or discussed about their beliefs until now. Anyone who truly loves this country and feels that we should all be equal should abhor such groups without reservation. That is why I can’t imagine that President Trump watered down his prepared remarks with an impromptu aside that indicated that he was still unwilling to call them out and severe any ties that may have bound him even loosely to them. Perhaps many of these people voted for him, but such support should be an embarrassment, not cause for reserved condemnation. President Trump often criticized President Obama for not referring to terrorists as implicitly as he should have, and now it seems that Trump is reluctant to follow his own advice. The man who has no problem using bellicose language in defense of himself fell short in decrying the violence and prejudice of this weekend. 

I pray that none of us will miss the point of what has happened. These evil groups have existed in the shadows for decades, but now they have the confidence to come out in the open. This is so because we have been willing to look the other way when we should have been letting them know with certainty that we as a nation will not stand silent while their bigotry and hate exists. All of us should loudly and soundly protest everything for which they stand. There is no room for their prejudice in our society. We must all denounce them here and now. There is no other hand.

I pray for healing in our country. We all share responsibility for silence when we should have been voicing our common disdain for any persons or groups that espouse a return to the kind of evil that tore the world apart not that long ago. There is nothing about the Nazi political thinking that is worthy of emulation. We have clear documentation of how evil their philosophies can be. Why we would allow it to rise again in our own country is beyond me.

It is also clearly true that slavery was an evil that needed to be eradicated. The fact that it took a civil war that claimed the lives of 600,000 young men only compounds the tragedy of this dark chapter in our history. It is up to each of us to enlighten our children and help them to understand that we must move forward together, united in a determination to be a just and inclusive nation.

We must also be more vigilant and willing to face the realities of our world. We must educate ourselves even when what we learn is disturbing. We have to be honest with ourselves so that we will not become victims of our own ignorance. The fact is that the forces of evil exist and we must bring their horrific philosophies into the light of day so that we may reveal their true intent. Adolf Hitler’s goals were an open book, all contained in the pages of Main Kampf. Too many people ignored the warnings that he provided until it was too late. We can’t let that kind of thing happen here.

I want to end with the wisdom of leaders whose words are a guiding light particularly on this very sad day:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  —- Nelson Mandela

Our Founders fought a revolution for the idea that all men are created equal. The heirs of that revolution fought a Civil War to save our nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to that revolutionary proposition.Nothing less is at stake on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, where a violent attack has taken at least one American life and injured many others in a confrontation between our better angels and our worst demons.White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special. As we mourn the tragedy that has occurred in Charlottesville, American patriots of all colors and creeds must come together to defy those who raise the flag of hatred and bigotry. —-Senator John McCain

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. —-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us all stand together against hate. With one voice we must demonstrate to our children that our human hearts choose love.

Stubby

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Who knew that a tiny gecko was capable of bringing so much joy? No, I’m not speaking of the Geico gecko even though he is a rather dashing fellow. I am referring to a resident of our backyard whom we have named Stubby.

Stubby lives underneath a potted hibiscus plant that sits on top of two bricks on our patio. We first noticed him several weeks ago when he found the confidence to come out from the safely of his abode to sun himself while we ate dinner. Part of his tail was missing and not even the passage of time has remedied his affliction like we thought it might. He’s a rather ordinary fellow all in all but he has a charisma that draws our attention to his antics. Since we eat outside most evenings we now look for him, and so far he has not failed to greet us.

He is quite fond of entertaining us by climbing onto the seat of a wrought iron chair near his domicile. Once he reaches his perch he celebrates by puffing up his mouth until it reveals a brilliant red color. He’s a bit of a show off but that’s actually what makes him so much fun to observe. He’s quite a character with a penchant for being a star. We’ve noticed a number of tiny offspring wandering not too far from him and wonder if he is their proud father.

I suppose that it may sound a bit sad or even crazy that we derive so much joy from Stubby, but our interest is easily explained. We’ve had quite a round of trauma of late. We’ve had to change our lifestyles as well as our outlooks. We’ve come to appreciate the blessings that we have, and one of them is having a remarkable creature like Stubby right in our own backyard. We are actually quite happy that he has so graciously accepted our hospitality. I suppose that his antics are one way that he demonstrates his gratitude for our largesse.

I worried a bit about Stubby when our grand dog Cooper came to visit recently. I didn’t know if the little pup would chase or harm our resident gecko. Luckily Cooper is a bit overweight and as a result slow on his feet. If he even noticed Stubby he didn’t let on. Instead he ran straight for the fence where our neighbors’ dog greeted him with a bark. He proceeded to mark his territory and let out a warning salvo. After that he simply went in that direction every time we let him out just to see what was happening next door.

Cooper is quite fun in spite of his lack of athleticism. He is a very polite and laid back dog so he doesn’t perform any daring feats like Stubby, but he has the warm heart of a lover. He likes to sit next to my husband Mike and only requires a little scratch or two now and again for thanks. I suspect that he is still pining a bit for his brother dog Shane who recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We try to be very accommodating to Cooper’s every need in this difficult time for him. Mostly he’s willing to placate us as long as we feed him at the correct time.

It is little wonder that even soldiers with PTSD are often advised to get a service dog for companionship. Pets have a way of diffusing stress in the most amazing ways. They make us laugh and fascinate us so well that we forget the cares and woes that may be demanding our attention. They are actually as good at making us feel better as a cocktail of psychotropic drugs. I don’t advocate eliminating medications in favor of a pet, but I think that adding them to the pharmaceutical mix is a powerful antidote to anxiety and sadness. I know that it works quite well for me just to allow myself to be almost hypnotized by the things that they do so well.

Birds also have an incredible capacity to  bring us peace of mind. We have a single hummingbird that flits from one side of the yard to another. His speed is so remarkable that sometimes it’s difficult to keep up with him. I never fail to smile when I see this wonderful creature, but my favorite among the feathered friends is a dove who perches on our roof and sometimes dares to get rather close to us as he balances on the rim of our fountain preening himself and partaking of a drink. I like hearing his cooing which is as soft and comforting as a lullaby. He has a mate that has been absent of late. I wonder if she has been busy nesting or raising her young. I long for her return because the two of them are so much more magnificent together. I hope that she has not run afoul of some terrible injury, but for now I have no way of knowing what has happened to her.

We’ve got a rather impressive colony of bumblebees in our yard contrary to the thinking that they are almost extinct. I managed to step on one a while back and learned that I am allergic to its venom. I got quite dizzy and my tongue began to swell. Sadly I suspect that my attacker didn’t do so well either. I felt guilty for walking around without shoes and causing the demise of a worker who was only doing the job that came naturally. Now I am more careful as I stroll through the grass. I know that the lovely flowers that adorn my garden are enhanced by the bees who spread pollen even as they enjoy the nectar.

I’ve often thought that I might have enjoyed a lifetime of interacting with animals. ( I can hear my teaching colleagues laughing as they think that maybe I did work on an animal farm now and again. Of course I’m just kidding.)  Nature’s creatures can be so very interesting and I think they actually teach us a bit about ourselves. They remind us to enjoy the beauty and variety of the natural world. They demonstrate how much bounty is to be found in the plants, the trees, the sun and the rain that we all too often take for granted and don’t even notice. They invite us to slow down and live a bit in the moment so that the scales that are blinding us from seeing our blessings fall from our eyes.

I know that Stubby will one day reach the end of his days on our patio. I’ll be a bit sad when he no longer joins us for dinner. He’s helped me to deal with situations that are so difficult with a much bigger smile on my face than might otherwise not have been there. He’s adorable and I’d like to believe that he likes us as much as we like him. Of course I understand his anatomy and realize that he does not have the capacity for such feelings, but I guess that if a gecko can become a television celebrity, so too is it reasonable to think that maybe just maybe Stubby knows that he is bringing us happiness. Either way I’m just glad that he is here right now. He’s the right guy in the right place at the right time.

Remembering A Wonderful Life

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The classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life considers the difference that one individual might make in the world. The premise is that if the hero had never lived everything in his town would have turned out differently. It demonstrated that while each of us only touch a limited number of lives, our impact is nonetheless profound.

I was thinking about this when the new RAISE immigration plan was announced. I wondered what might have happened if such a law had been in effect when my grandfather first wanted to come to the United States from Austria Hungary. He had only minimal education and no real skills beyond a willingness to do the most detestable of jobs. His English was minimal. He came with little more than the clothes on his back and did the kind of manual labor that is brutal and dirty. He was frugal and saved money until he was able to send for my grandmother. She had even less to offer our great country than he did. She spoke no English and her education was virtually nonexistent. Once she had arrived she worked as a cook, a cleaning lady and at a bakery until she began to have children and then she rarely left her home again. My grandfather eventually settled on a job at a meat packing plant. He cleaned carcasses and equipment, hardly a grand career but certainly a noble way to provide for his family. From his meager salary he built a tiny house for which he paid cash and there he raised eight children.

According to the point system of the RAISE plan Grandpa would hardly have been a candidate for immigration. There was little to indicate that he would be of great economic use to the United States. I am rather certain that he would have been denied entry to our nation. What a loss that would ultimately have been.

All four of my grandfather’s sons served proudly in the military during World War II. During their lifetimes they worked hard at their jobs, rarely missing even one day of work. Two of them were employed by the United States Postal Service and two worked for Houston Lighting and Power. His daughters held a variety of positions that included teaching, doing research for a high blood pressure study, serving the United States Postal Service and working at a Naval Station. Their children, my grandfather’s grandchildren, were even more remarkable. Among them were accountants, teachers, managers, businesspersons, firefighters, and engineers. In fact my brother coauthored the program for the navigational system of the International Space Station. I wonder who would have done that if my grandfather had never come here?

It’s difficult to imagine how different the lives of countless individuals might have been had my grandfather never been granted permission to immigrate to the United States simply because his education was lacking, his skills were so basic and his English was wanting. On the surface he most certainly may have appeared to be a risk, and yet he was a proud American who encouraged his children to always work hard and be their very best. When many citizens were struggling to survive during the Great Depression he kept his family safe in a home that he had build one section at a time, paying for each addition as he went. He was frugal and refused to even accept even charitable gifts, insisting that he wanted to earn whatever he had. He was exactly the kind of American that has made this country great, but with a law like RAISE he might never have stepped on our shores.

With each successive generation his successors have become ever more important contributors to American society. There are medical doctors and those with PhD’s in public health and mathematics. There are teachers, accountants, nurses, electricians, business people, builders, athletes, ministers and scientists. The talent pool that has come from him has widened and the future of his great great grandchildren appears to be even brighter. His was the American dream and it was fulfilled beyond even his own expectations. Certainly it has made a difference to the country in a measurable way, but what if he had never been allowed to come?

My grandfather’s story is not that unusual. It has been repeated many times over in the history of our nation. Individuals who came with little or nothing to recommend them went on to build families whose impact was monumental. If we were to take away all of their contributions how different would our land be? How can we ever know who among us will be the teacher that we need, the inventor who will make our lives better, the leader who will find solutions to our biggest problems? Each of us traces our ancestry back to some distant place and in most cases the person who first ventured here was desperate to find a better way of life, but did not appear to be outstanding on the face of things. How can we use a point system to determine which people will ultimately have the best impact on our land?

I have taught thousands of immigrant children. Many of their parents spoke no English, but they were good people who did their share of work, often the dirtiest and least desirable. Like my grandfather they wanted a better life for their children and sacrificed greatly to make it happen, many times by working multiple jobs. Among my students from such families are college professors, medical doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, police officers, soldiers, fire fighters, mechanics, builders, accountants, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, physicists, psychologists, public health administrators, computer programmers, public administrators, school principals, counselors, lawyers and even politicians. In a single generation they have fulfilled the hopes of their parents and are actively contributing to society in thousands of ways. They are the true face of immigration, not the hopeless gang members and welfare takers that fear mongers sometimes portray them to be. 

I respectfully submit that we should carefully consider what we might be missing if we restrict immigration to our country as outlined in the RAISE bill. Skimming what appears to be the cream of the crop from various foreign nations may or may not be the answer to a better economy. Sometimes the desire that comes from someone desperate to improve his/her condition cannot be measured by a rubric, just as the worth of my grandfather might have been considered rather low. What made him a good candidate for consideration was the “ganas” burning inside his belly. All he needed was an opportunity to demonstrate just how valuable he truly was. Thankfully he was given that gift and what a difference it has made to the United States.

We certainly want the best for our nation but we need to consider the consequences of limiting ourselves to rubrics that fail to recognize the intangible values that make truly good citizens like my grandfather and his descendants. The issue is far too complex to delineate with numbers. Human beings will surprise us again and again. We need to be open to thinking outside of the box, because it is beyond the confines of our imaginations that the best things happen. Let’s keep our lives wonderful and welcome the tired and the beleaguered. From them may come just the people that we have been waiting for.