I know I take the risk of alienating a few patriotic friends in saying this, but I’ve never been exactly “proud” to be an American. I know how blessed my life is living here, but being proud is associated with some kind of fine accomplishment, and I did nothing to be an American other than having the great fortune to have been born here.
But then I met the Russian cabdriver.
Denise and I were celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary by going to Manhattan for the first time as a married couple. We have lived in Central Texas for almost all of our married lives and have traveled quite a bit. As I hail from near San Francisco, we typically would travel to uncongested areas. Our first choice was to go to Glacier National Park. Incredibly, they were so packed, we could not get a room anywhere the park.
So instead of going to where we would be in a forest of trees, we opted to head to the place we would be in a forest of people. The amazing adventures of the people we met is another story in itself.
We traveled mainly in “ride share” accommodations (Lyft and Uber). With all the “cab” rides we took, we engaged most of our drivers in conversation. Every one of them came from foreign countries. One fella, Ivan, was really interesting: married with two pre-teen daughters and a wife who worked for a dermatologist
Now, this story is only properly significant if you can mentally put a strong Russian accent on him. I asked him where in Russia he was from and he said (remember the cool accent, please), “The mountains of Russia. Do you know where Ural Mountains are?” When we told him we did, he was very pleased.
“My mother and father still live there. I want my mother to come visit me but she is frightened of airplanes. My father was here last year. We had a nice time. When I spoke to my mother a few nights ago to ask her to come and visit, she was crying. So I will go back to see her.”
When I commented about his very good English, he said, “I took classes when I came six years ago and I like to talk with customers to help with my English. My friend lives in Russian area in Brooklyn. You know, in Brooklyn, people have areas of their own people. There are Jews, Italians, Chinese, many people. My friend only talks with Russians. After six years, all he can say in English is ‘ay-low.’ I tell him he is stoopid. He must learn how talk and how to live here. You know, this is my country. I must get better and better.”
I was stunned. I quickly realized I have never heard anyone say that before: “This is my country.” Suddenly I thought: How amazing is it that we are living many people’s lifelong dream to come to live in America? I was flooded with my first rush of pride that I am in the most desirable country in the world.
I know, of course we have plenty to work and improve upon. I know we are far from perfect. Nevertheless, to say with pride and deep affection, “This is my country,” is profound, and we are blessed.
John Sommer is a Clinical Social Worker with three grown children and eight grandchildren. He lives in Brownwood, Texas, with his wife of forty-six years, Denise.
This essay was entered in The Epoch Times “Why I Love America” contest.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.