The comedian Gallagher pointed out that to really understand something you need a fresh set of eyes. He’d use examples of his daughter’s description of things, such as calling a restaurant a “dinner store.”
We’re in Washington, DC. As our nation’s capital, it is somewhat surprising to see how cosmopolitan it is. Take every dialect, every style of clothing, evidence of every religion, mix thoroughly and you have the District.
I’m not naïve, and have seen parking lots covered with the cones the police use to mark bullet casings and other evidence. That happens with every large city.
But with Washington, the thing that has struck me this trip is talking with the people who are first generation Americans. There is a common theme. They came to raise their children – many who were not yet born when they arrived. How they learned the language. How they learned to coordinate – to fit in without losing themselves and their heritage.
I guess as a melting pot America does not reduce its people to a homogenous consommé, but instead to a rich collection of flavors that contrast with one another. The spicy with the tart; the savory with the subtle in a wonderful blend.
But the best part is that as we’ve talked to people, so many have expressed a common theme. They came here – they became Americans because of opportunity. Not a guarantee or a promise – but a chance.
And then I remembered being told that my own great-grandfather came here from Poland in the 19th century for the same reasons, with the same challenges, and the same dreams.