Last week, our country celebrated its Independence Day. The 4th of July, for me, has always been filled with memories of fireworks, barbecues, and hot, sunny days at nearby Lake Oconee. In this land of the Free, we often forget the cost of that freedom or how cherished it is, especially for those who have migrated to the USA.
A recent visit to a local nail salon served to remind me of that very point.
I can hear the men in my reading audience guffawing now. Buddy? Really? A nail salon? What about your man-card? Ok, Ok, it wasn’t a pretty sight seeing a woman half my size dragging me into a nail parlor. I put up a gallant fight. Really, I did. However, seeking to avoid a High Noon standoff, I succumbed to my wife’s winsome ways. She insisted a spa-like pedicure experience would help my circulation and neuropathy in my feet. She further convinced me a mid-day appointment time would have fewer witnesses. Reluctantly I agreed to the “therapy.”
I later told my wife I thought nail salons for women are the equivalent of a barbershop for men. A service is provided, but the storytelling is the real attraction. She didn’t argue with me.
The highlight of the visit wasn’t the hot rock massage on my feet, although that felt really goooood. So much so I might even consider that “therapy” again. The real blessing was meeting Tammy. Her name is an Americanized version of her Vietnamese name Tam-Mei. She appeared to be in her 50’s and works six days a week, 12 hours a day. Her English is excellent, and her disposition can only be described as sunny. She spoke in a soft sweet voice, and her warm smile eased my self-consciousness and made me feel welcome.
My wife had specifically asked that Tammy handle my treatment. She has come to know Tammy and has always been impressed with her work ethic and kind disposition. I soon became impressed too. Tammy speaks three languages fluently. I learned that she is a Christian and was one of the Vietnamese “boat people” that left Vietnam in the early 1980s to escape persecution. She explained that staying in Vietnam would not allow her children to become all that God intended for them. So she decided to leave everything behind in hopes that her future generations could be productive and contribute something in America. She came to this country legally through Canada and has since become an American citizen. She has worked hard to support her children, a son who is presently in his final year of a medical school residency and a daughter who is a teacher. She is very proud of them and proud to be an American.
There is a lot of debate about immigration in our country today. While I am all for border security and legal immigration, I also think that getting to know immigrants helps to put a human face on the issue. It reminds me that their stories are not much different from our Irish and Italian ancestors of a century ago who came looking for a better life for their children and future generations.
I think that this country is blessed to have new citizens like Tammy.
I know I am blessed to know her.