Sunday, February 20, 2011

The American Dream

Rode with a cab driver in Fort Worth this morning to the airport. While at first I was annoyed by his chatty manner so early in the morning (it was barely 5 AM), I warmed to him. He told me, with great excitement, how happy he was to be here. In America. In Texas.

He told me a story of a time when his four friends from DC came to visit him. They were coming to Texas to play soccer, but he knew them from home. They kind of put down Ft. Worth as being too small, too disconnected from what they saw as "real America," big cities. These fellow countrymen were incredulous of his quality of life in Ft. Worth. He told me over and over that they just plain didn't believe him.

The four of them shared a single room apartment in DC. He encouraged them to move down South. They wouldn't dream of it. He said he encouraged them to remember where they were from. Then he told me of the quality of life in his village in Ethiopia (well, not Ethiopia, his country actually splintered off from Ethiopia, but I asked three times and couldn't catch the name of his country, so, let's just call it Ethiopia, ok?). Here's what he told me of his country...

"I lived in a two room place with a family of ten. Mother, Father and eight children!" He then peered at me, eyes wide, voice dramatic to be sure I understood the magnitude of his description. "Three of the boys slept in one bed, the rest on the floor."

Now this man drives a cab and makes enough to rent his own two room place. He lives, according to the standards by which he was raised, like a king. He recently drove a customer home and they were building a new house. He told me he realized that he would, in this country, be able to one day own a house.

"In this country, I live like a king. I will one day own a house. And, because I live here and work here, three of my brothers go to school! I buy them 'exercise' books and send them fresh packs of pencils that I buy for under a dollar." (I didn't ask, but later it occured to me that he meant "workbooks" when he said "exercise books."

My response to his continued exasperation about his friends who would never consider moving to little old Ft. Worth, who just didn't get it and wouldn't better their situation by moving somewhere where the cost of living was more affordable, was this...Maybe, when people dream of leaving their home, their country, for a better life, they sit and imagine how that new life will be. In their mind's eye, they see different visions. Some see monetary success and comfort in their living space, some see big cities with lights and opportunities.

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