By Rick Houser –
Over the course of my lifetime I have enjoyed learning and talking about American history. I find the Declaration of Independence, written 241 years ago to be particularly interesting. Last week I found out just how much it meant to me but also how much the document means to those just learning.
I am the manager of two nursing homes in southwestern Ohio and have been for close to four decades. If nothing else I have learned about our country and moments in our history through the voices of our residents as they recall significant moments in their lives. But last week came a day I walked away from beaming and proud of the United States of America.
To begin the story, I hired a lady who came to this country as a native of the Philippines. She has married a man from this area and plans to someday become a citizen of our country. Arlene came to me in March to apply for a position in our housekeeping department. She told me that she was a hard worker and enjoyed working. (Something not heard too often these days.) Based on her references and her sincere approach to being interviewed, I hired her. She then signed up for our nurse’s aide training program in which she learned quickly and passed with flying colors, so now she works for whoever needs her, either as a house keeper or nurse’s aide. It’s nice to have flexible help to say the least.
Arlene has been in our country less than a year and learning our version of the American “slang” language I can only guess would be very hard to master, but she works daily at it, trying to understand more and fit into conversations. I was talking with Arlene and some of her co-workers and we were talking about what each was going to do on the Fourth of July. All of a sudden Arlene looked at me and said “I don’t understand. Why is the Fourth so important?”
When I heard this I looked her straight in the eye and said, “This is the day we gained our independence.” She then asked “from who, when, why?” At that moment I got my chance to teach and in great detail and one piece at a time I explained what had led up to those brave men gathering in Philadelphia and writing a document that has to this day given each of us the right to say we are Americans. I explained that the men who signed that document were committing high treason against the King of England and would be executed if captured.
As I spoke I could see that her eyes and mind were absorbing all that I was saying. She said, “Thank you so very much for explaining all this to me as I really hadn’t understood it until now. You know my country was a colony twice.” I said, “I know to Spain but who else?” She answered, “Japan in World War II” and went on to explain how she has experienced freedom to a point but never anything like the USA. She then said, “The Fourth of July is most certainly a day to rejoice and celebrate.”
At this point I smiled and felt I had taught a history lesson and by golly I had taught it well. I came to realize just how great America has been and still is. I am glad to see this lady giving her all to become a citizen one day and let me assure you she is going to make a good citizen. I know we say it and hear it very often, “I am proud to be an American!” I wonder though,do we take the time to grasp just what that means?
We hear our country is in a bad shape or we are headed for bad times. Well, I have been on this planet a long time and to my recollection these two statements have been repeated quite often. From the time the Declaration was signed to this day and I will guess into the future, the American people have always come out on top.
It hasn’t always been easy but we will always go the full measure to maintain our freedom. I was so proud that I got to express my loyalty to my country and in a small part I got to tell just why, because we for the last two and a half centuries have worked together. Sure, we have disagreed at times but that is part of our greatness. We can agree to disagree in the past, and moving forward we continue maintaining just who we are.
Now I think I understand the Fourth of July more than I ever have. I think the History teachers I had in high school and college would smile and approve of how I handled this situation. Sometimes folks should explain a little more to someone new to our country about how we got our freedom and how good it is to have it. Share it with all Americans no matter what their opinion or likes and dislikes might be. Surely you all agree with me that we thank our Founding Fathers and the good Lord for our country and our freedom. God Bless America!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.