My America, Our America by Fatima Rhodes
by Mark Chmiel
I am happy to share another reflection from Fatima Rhodes:
I love working with the newcomer children. Three months ago, the majority of them didn’t know a word of English at the beginning of the school year. The other day, a six year old Syrian boy in the cafeteria line said something to me I couldn’t hear. When I leaned over, he smiled shyly and whispered in my ear, “I love you, Miss Fatima.” In English. So in addition to teaching them English, we also teach them love and tolerance on daily basis.
Now, I didn’t say we are miracle workers; these English learners are also picking up some foul language too (though because of their limited English fluency, I would say most of them fail to grasp the inappropriateness of the language.) Our kids are a work in progress (aren’t we all?) and they have witnessed and survived some horrific circumstances no children or any human being should have to experience. They are facing many challenges and they are slowly learning to feel safe again, to build trust and to acclimate to their new surrounding here in St. Louis.
No, our kids are not perfect. Their new home America is not perfect. No one of us is perfect. And I had to do it all over again, I will still choose to work with these kids and their families. I will choose to hold these kids hands for I now the day will come when they will in turn hold my hands. I will still choose to call America home. I will choose to continue to learn from and be inspired by these new children of America. I choose to believe that America still has a lot to offer. Elections come and go but America will be America. Our America. With its wounds and scars. With its shortcomings and redemptions. Its blemishes and shame. Its scarred beauty and accomplishments.
See, I believe that America is just like her children. She is a survivor. Like her ancestors, the natives of this land. And those who came generations ago willing or unwilling and helped build it and learned to call It home. And like those recently arriving and who will continue to come because that’s what makes our America, America. And no one can take that away from her. Wether we like it or not, we are in this together. For my part, I am gratefully, peacefully and completely okay with that.
18 November 2016