Monday, February 15, 2010

The Land of the Free

I find that it is easy to take my peaceful, comfortable life in America for granted. Especially, because it is the only life I've ever known. It is too easy to forget that our life is not the story of everybody's life on this earth. Two encounters have especially struck this home to me:

There is an Albanian family that my family visits and we have slowly been getting to know. During one visit, we were lucky to have someone there that could translate for us. He told us of how this family came to America. To our amazement, it was explained to us that Albania (a Socialist country) at one time held a lottery in which the winners received visas and a plane ticket to America. They won the lottery. My mind could not even comprehend the fact that, in contrast to America where winning the lottery means getting rich, that another country's lottery would mean a plane ticket out.

Over the weekend, I met two individuals who both have Cuban parents. I asked them if they had been able to visit Cuba, to which the answer was "no". They explained that their parents had arrived in America as part of "Operation Pedro Pan" (Peter Pan). Operation Pedro Pan was an effort back in the early 60's, in which Cuban parents sent their children (about 14,000) to America, in order to save them from Castro's new regime- such as youth work camps, indoctrination, and feared seizing of parental rights. Many of the children's parents weren't able to travel immediately to America themselves, due to increasing tensions between Cuba and the USA. Communication between the children and their parents was limited as Cuba censored the mail. Children lived in refugee camps, or were found foster homes.
Can you imagine living in such circumstances, that sending your children (even as young as 5) to another country, alone, would actually seem to be the best option for them? While it is easier now for Cubans to return, many choose not to because they do not want to put money into the communist system. I had never heard of Operation Pedro Pan before, and found these articles from The Miami Herald and CNN interesting.

These stories, and others, make me feel so humbled and grateful to live in a land of freedom, where my family and I live happily and peacefully. I also can't help but feel a sense of duty. When I have been blessed with so much, how can I help those without?

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