Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A humbling reminder

Yesterday, I journeyed to the American embassy here in Abu Dhabi in order to get our marriage license notarized so that I could then apply for a residence visa. As it turns out, I showed up an hour and a half early and so had to wait in a shaded outdoor seating area. And yes, it was damn hot! During my time waiting, no less than 4 men from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Iran initiated conversations with me (as the only white American male there, I suppose I stood out). One middle-aged Pakistani man had received his high school education in New York, but then had to move back to Pakistan due to a family emergency. This man could not help but heap accolade after accolade on America, saying that he hopes to be able to return there again some day. Shortly after this conversation, a young Iranian man introduced himself to me and exuded such excitement as he told me he had won a green card in a lottery and so was moving to Ohio where he hoped to earn a bachelor's degree. I asked him when he thought he might return to Iran, to which he replied, somewhat incredulously, "Never."

As I reflected on these encounters later that night, I couldn't help but thank God that I am an American. Now, please do not misunderstand me. I, by no means, believe that America has an unblemished record when it comes to its actions towards those both within and without its borders (see Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States), but I do believe there's a reason why so many flock to our borders. While America is many things to many people, it seems to me that multitudes around the world hold America in such high regard because it is a country built on the belief that ALL have a right to be freed from any tyranny which plagues them, whether that be a tyranny of dictatorship, skin color, gender, age, or socioeconomic class. With this freedom, one is then empowered to define themselves however they see fit rather than having their lives predetermined according to something beyond their control. Does it always work this way? Sadly, no. But it's the idea and its gradual realization that attracts so many, and which makes America so unique. It is this America for which I am so humbly grateful.


  1. Sam! Andy and I are loving your blog- in what other way would we be getting such incredible little insights to the happenings in the middle east! I love it! Just know that you have avid followers so keep the posts coming!

    Miss you guys!

  2. Hey Sam-Interesting, this perspective helps to better explain why Mack has no desire to return to Iran. People often question this, and wonder why he has no real desire to return to his homeland, if even for a visit.

    Keep up the blogging, I'm really enjoying your thoughts!!

    Your sis (Shelby)

  3. Sam, I look forward each day to discovering something new posted. But I had too busy a week to check until today, and fit it inbetween two essential activities, thrilled to see not only your posting but Shannon's.

    I will also remind Shannon of this, but I cannot help but think of when she and her sister accompanied us to Kenya on a ministry trip outside Nairobi when they were 13 and 15. The whole time they kept lamenting, "I want to go home to America!! God Bless America!!" I think it does take time outside of our borders to appreciate what we have here.

    Having been in both Egypt and India in the summer years ago, I well remember what it's like to be outdoors even for a few moments with the searing temperatures you are experiencing.

    Keep the postings coming and thanks for taking the time to do so. It helps us feel connected and less frustrated about not being able to pick up the phone and call readily.

    Love, Rebecca