One perk offered to local staff that work at our Embassies, is the possibility of earning a visa to emigrate to the USA. This depends on the country, but the requirement can range from a few years to 20. These folks are the institutional knowledge, and history that maintain our presence at the table around the world. They keep the contacts. They educate us temporary office inhabitants and keep us from making fools of ourselves. Often they do this despite long commutes, or threats to their lives.
Lest readers worry, the time requirement is only one of the hoops. They aren’t going to overwhelmingly flood our borders. There is other vetting that has always taken place. It’s no more extreme than it used to be. For 8 plus hours a day, they’ve promoted American interests. We should want these people in our cities.
One staff I know reached out to me for advice after they’d finally been granted their visa. After months of waiting they were faced with deciding whether to move to the Midwest where their daughter lived, and the East coast where they had some friends.
I spent some time listening as they went through their options. Both areas had good schools available for their children. A good education was the main reason for the move. On the coast, there was an established community. They could get familiar foods, and do familiar things. The downside was the cost. It was really expensive to live there and it would be hard to send money to family back home.
The Midwest had a daughter who was already there and a low cost of living. They could do more with less.
I think they were leaning toward the Midwest. Their crux, though was the fear of fitting in. “I’m Buddhist and I live and work with Christians here, no problem, but I think it might be different there. I want to fit in, but how can I? It’s like when you come to visit us. I think you’re shy to join us at lunch, because we are all the same and you’re different. But, then we invite you and we all eat together. I think it won’t be like that. What am I going to do with my time?”
It was saddening to hear this. This perception that we the people were all being painted the same shade of unwelcoming belief. Saddened at the intersection of truth and untruth.
I tried to clear their view. Unlike TV, life is much muddier. There are Christians everywhere. There are unwelcoming people everywhere. And while, there may be enclaves of every combination, there are also, hopefully still, enclaves of people who look out for one another and outsiders regardless of where they come from.
I’m not sure what they’ll decide, but they’re coming to America soon.
In the coming months, and really at any point after that, if someone enters your world, and they don’t look or sound or believe like you, I hope you’ll look for them. The outsiders. Rent them a space, or offer them a job or, at the very least, share a meal with them. It will change both of your worlds.