This does not have anything to do with running, so if that is the only reason you are here, you may want to check out. There are some things that are just too important to keep quiet about.
I married an immigrant. She came to America when she was 9 years old. In Iran, before her family got out, she colored pictures of bombs falling on an American flag with the title, Death to America, in thick, blocky 9-year-old penmanship.
I fell in love with her smile.
She didn’t know she was leaving. Her parents told her the night before to pack. They didn’t want her to tell her teachers in fear of someone interfering with their plans. Her family was lucky. They received one of a handful of visas to leave the country.
Before she left, she saw televised live executions. She heard the revolutionaries in her neighborhood taking politicians and other wealthy people to prison. Many were never heard from again.
When she started school in America, she couldn’t answer the teacher’s questions because she didn’t speak English. The teacher thought she was mentally ill and belonged in a special education class. Today, she doesn’t have a hint of an accent.
She has this way of caring for people. Not the soft kind of caring, although she can be soft and nurturing when she needs to be, but a simple, and tough pragmatism that improves people’s lives.
Nursing is a perfect calling for her. She works on the trauma floor in a downtown hospital. Her patients are mostly elderly, drug addicts, gang members, or homeless.
She doesn’t tell me every story because I can’t stomach most of them. But she tells me some.
She told me the story of the homeless woman covered in lice. Nobody wanted to touch her. My wife took her into the bathroom and shampooed her hair. She could see the lice dropping on the shower floor.
She told me about the elderly man, shivering in the cold room. His heavy cardigan sweater was on one arm, but the arm with his IV was bare. She disconnected the IV and put his sweater back on for him and reconnected the IV. He smiled and thanked her. She told me it amazed her that nobody thought to do that.
My wife is not a Christian.
When she started her job as a nurse, she worked night shifts, 7 PM to 7 AM with an hour commute each way. She would come home, tired after her shift and sleep for a few hours before the kids came home from school. She would wake up, help them with their homework, or help me with dinner, before returning to another night of work.
This past year she took online courses to add her second bachelor’s degree to her RN degree. She also passed an emergency department certification course. They asked her to come back and teach the course to others. She did all this while working full time, and while helping our family run smooth as only she can.
I don’t write this to brag about my wife, although I cannot contain my pride in what she has accomplished and I cannot hide my love for her. My wife is an immigrant. Our stories make us who we are, and the immigrant story is one of struggle, overcoming, and gratitude.
Our wedding ceremony was a mix of Western and Persian traditions. We licked honey off of each other’s fingers to symbolize the beginning of a sweet life together. We also stood in front of the Justice of the Peace and said I Do. I prefer the Persian tradition.
The story of our country is a story of immigration. A family member told me that the executive branch of our government should not be an international humane organization. While that may be true, our government should strive to preserve and maintain what makes this country great. We can’t save everyone, but if we don’t try to help others who are less fortunate than us, our story becomes a little less caring, a little more bleak, and more economic textbook than soaring poetry.
This is the story of one immigrant. One word of one line in a beautiful story that is the story of our country.
If you liked this, please feel free to share it. If you want to help, The International Rescue Committee is a good place to start. I’d love to hear other immigrant stories in the comments below.