Guess where I’m going next July?
I’m going to be celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary in Italy! Isn’t that wonderful?
Our two sons and their beloveds are coming, too! We’re going to see Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. We’re going to stay in Pompeii, and walk through the Cinque Terre and drink wine in sidewalk cafes wherever we can find them.
And, perhaps best of all, we are going to visit the little villages that hold our ancient roots. My father’s family came from a small town outside of Naples. They were farmers, providing mostly for their own families. They lived simple, difficult lives.
Back at the turn of the twentieth century, that part of Italy was facing hard times. Life there was….I don’t know…how shall I say it?
It was a shit hole.
And my mother’s family came from Augusta, Sicily. An even more impoverished part of Europe during those first couple of decades of the twentieth century.
Even more of a shit hole.
My family, my grandparents, left behind every single thing that they knew and loved. They gave up home, safety, family, love, language, music, friends. They dared to dream of a better life, and they boarded those overcrowded ships. They waved goodbye. They looked forward.
They left those shit holes, and they entered Ellis Island.
They weren’t quite brown, but they weren’t blue eyed blonds, either. They faced the discrimination of the lighter skinned, English speaking immigrants who had come before them.
But they stuck it out, and they made a great new life for their children. And their grandchildren, like me.
Their efforts gave rise to several doctors, some lawyers, business people, teachers, nurses, EMT’s, musicians, actors, therapists. They are my heroes.
So next summer, I will go to the places where they lived and grew and fell in love with a better idea. I will honor and bless the ground where they walked. I will give thanks for their courage.
And I will vow, right out loud, to do everything I can for the rest of my life, to make sure that no matter what kind of “shit hole” other humans are living in, I will welcome them into my country, my state, and my own home.