Today at a conference for literacy tutors i went to a panel of English language learners who all shared their stories with us. The moderator was a woman who has lived in the US for 35 years, she is an educator originally from Iran. Someone asked the panel what surprised them the most about America. People said the health insurance system. How nobody walked anywhere. How nice people were, opening doors for other people. The moderator was thoughtful. She said when she first moved here she didn’t go shopping for clothes or shoes for two years. For two years she just wore what she had. Because in Iran you go shopping with other women—your sisters and cousins and friends. You don’t buy something without all of your women with you, telling you it looks good on you, that it suits you. This woman didn’t have that here in America, so she didn’t go shopping. One day she found herself in a large department store, crying because she was remembering how shopping used to be. A saleswoman came up and asked her if she could help her. This woman replied that she didn’t know how to buy anything alone. So the saleswoman helped her, and she ended up buying a pair of shoes. She ended up learning how to begin, again.
It is so hard to leave your country and everything that comes with it. The saleswoman, the people opening doors for others, all of the (mostly) gray-haired ESOL tutors at the conference today; today I was surprised by the little and big ways Americans have the capacity to welcome. May it increase and abound with every passing day, amen.