Why America Was Pretty Great Today

I felt pretty grateful today.

Sitting in the auditorium of my son’s preschool, a couple hundred parents waited with anticipation for the Christmas program to begin. From the back of the room, a parade of three, four, and five-year-olds stormed in. They fluttered down the aisle, each scanning the crowd for their parents. In similar fashion, eager moms and dads shot to their feet, one hand waving and signaling for their child’s notice, the other hand fumbling with a phone in record mode.

Amidst all the kids, a small boy, born in mainland China and brought to America only a year and a half ago, beamed with happiness as a pair of cow ears sat askew on his head. Ushered to the bleachers by teachers and crowded together on stage, those kids sang and danced, ringing in the holiday season as only preschoolers can do.

As I sat there mesmerized by my son, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by gratitude. On the second row of those bleachers was a kid who wasn’t worried about his next meal, cold weather, or abandonment. His bright, mischievous smile contained no traces of fear of the unknown, no thoughts of surgeries, and no pain. There was only joy. He’s a kid who was adopted by two very different people, flown from China to Texas having endured unspeakable hardship in his early life, standing on a spotlit stage to sing a Spanish favorite, Feliz Navidad. That can only happen in America, and that was pretty great.

There is much talk these days about our borders, about foreigners, and of outsiders. There are plans to build walls and isolate ourselves from the world, and some may see my son as the kind of outsider they so desire to keep out. I’m not a politician, so I can’t claim to have the most perfect in-depth view on immigration matters and border policy. What I am sure of is this: we are at our best when our hearts are open to all people. We are at our best when we value the diversity of human life. We are at our best when we lead by example to prove that compassion and love are paramount in this world.

My son is here today in part because my country values others around the world and because we open our hearts to those elsewhere in need. I worry that might not always be the case, and for some, their hearts may close. My wish this holiday season and into the new year is that we remain a beacon for the world. My hope is that the flame atop Lady Liberty’s torch burns as bright as my son’s smile, and that a child in need, from anywhere in our world, has the opportunity to experience that kind of joy on a stage near you.

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