Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bright Eyed Immigrant

There was an elderly woman that sat next to me in the gate area of the Knoxville flight to Atlanta. She was probably in her early 70s and had the most brilliant blue eyes that I have ever seen. We traded a few pleasantries and then she put her nose in her book, and I put my nose in mine.
After making the flight from Knoxville to Atlanta and having a two hour layover, we were both kind of amused as she once again took a seat next to me, this time in the gate area for Austin. Anyway, we struck up an actual conversation this time, but it was interrupted as she took a phone call, presumably from family or friends. I wasn’t exactly ease dropping, but she was sitting right next to me as she had her conversation so there was no trouble realizing that it wasn’t English. I’ve traveled a lot in my life and can often identify a language even if I can’t speak it, but I couldn’t quite figure out what hers was and so I asked her when she got off of the phone.
“Do you mind if I ask what language that is? It sounds similar to German but not quite.”
“I’m Dutch.” Replies this lady with brilliant blue eyes.
“Am I right that it has similarities to German?” I asked her.
“It does,” she replied, “But as much as I don’t like the Germans, I’d have to admit that their language has some nuances that ours doesn’t have. “ Through our discussion I learned that she had come to America 40 years ago as a physician. Making it as a female physician 40 years ago impressed me and I told her as much. She further impressed me by being modest about it. I told her that as the parent of a daughter and having two granddaughters, I loved to see that women were succeeding in fields that were once the sole domain of men. As an example, I’ve seen a clear and unambiguous increase in the number of female pilots in the last five years or so.
Next we started talking about immigrants and the new attitudes and apparent hostility of Americans toward them. You should have seen the look in her eyes as she assured me that she had lived through WWII and had seen this very thing happen before; she had seen a society blaming their problems on immigrants and becoming hostile toward them. It didn’t work out so well for anyone involved – not the Germans, certainly not the Jews, and it didn’t do the world as whole a bit of good.

What a thought that 40 years ago America welcomed this physician with the brilliant eyes to our nation and profited in so many ways from her addition to our country, and yet today they would discourage her from coming. There was a lot more to this conversation than I can't possibly share, but my eyes were watering as we wrapped it up. In the end, she actually reassured me.
“America is a wonderful and rich place. It will come back to its senses.” 
I hope so my friend, I hope so . . .


  1. Kim -

    I hope the lady is right. It must have a privilege talking with her, as her experiences put America and its current troubles in perspective. Too bad you will likely never see her again. She'd be a great person to keep in touch with.


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