The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 1, 2013

Nation of immigrants

---- — My brother recently retired and has taken the opportunity to explore our family's history. Some arrived at the beginning of this country's history; others fled Europe during the waves of famine and oppression, arriving just after the Civil War. We're not big on reunions and traditions, so it's been interesting to look at this history, make some connections with extended family members, and explore the reasons why people might have left everything they knew to look for -- or create -- something better.

I've been struck by the poignancy: My great grandfather was put on a boat at 11 to become a miner in Mahanoy City, with only his older brother (13) to look after him and a 17-year-old brother to welcome them. How hard must it have been for their parents to let go and how perilous the circumstances.

Times of arrival and reasons for departure are different in every family but the process is usually the same. Our forebears left or were sent from where they came, or were taken from their homes and brought here. Since the first boat landed, since the First Peoples arrived looking for something better in an unknown land, there has been wave after wave of immigrants.

Americans have accomplished amazing things. People from all over the world have shared traditions and cultures, creating a distinctive, polyglot culture of our own.

It has always been a culture in flux, and it strikes me as curious and tragic that people who revel in our genealogy, and take such pride in our shared accomplishments, should be so unwilling to open our hearts and doors to today's people fleeing oppression and seeking success.

We didn't become America by keeping people out. We did it by inviting people in. Let the people come. And let's keep growing. Happy July 4th!

Rev. Ann Keeler Evans, Lewisburg