As I walked down our hallways this afternoon, one of my colleagues asked me if I missed the kids in Can Tho. I confessed I did. Four weeks ago this minute, I was aboard a Singapore Airlines flight somewhere between Singapore and Moscow- the fact that I know tells you something. The trips have become a big part of who I am and who I need to be. I love the little ones who are very affectionate and curious about foreigners. But truthfully, I don't learn as much from the small children as I do the young adults. A good deal of my time in Vietnam is spent in conversation with students who speak some English and desperately want to improve. Most have no native speakers to practice with and I afford them the chance, free of charge. My best skill is correcting pronunciations and giving these youngsters a chance to hear English spoken by someone who knows no other tongue. I'm no English teacher but I am a teacher who teaches in English and that gives me some value, at least in the eyes of my Vietnamese pupils.
There are some commonalities in the speech patterns of my students. Some sounds are hard for them to make and some errors are repeated mistakes learned from their teachers. But there is something else they have in common; all of them want to come to America. It may be to study or to immigrate or simply to travel within our far flung borders but each of them expressed that deeply held desire. For many, it's a very remote possibility- visas to the US are very difficult to come by, I am told. But still they dream and part of that yellow brick road is paved by improved skills in English. And that's why they come to see me.
It's been many years since I watched the complete updated version of The Jazz Singer starring Neil Diamond. I recall little. There was tenseness between Diamond's character and his father, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. There was the classic ballad, Love On The Rocks. But what I really remember is Diamond/Jess Robin's concert version of (They're Coming To) America. It gave me chills with imagery of Ellis Island and immigrants searching for a new home. I love the lyrics, especially the first verse:
We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream
I've mentioned before that my great grandparents on Dad's side were immigrants from Denmark and my grandmother spoke Danish until she was five. I wish I could have known them and find out what drove them to leave their homeland to come here. They didn't know about me but I'm a third generation by-product of their faith in a better life. I wish I could thank them. But they not only gave me the chance for a better life here but in the after life as well by the way they raised my grandmother, a saintly woman. Legal standing in any land is temporary at best, even if we breathe in and out for ninety years or more. We know earthly borders will be destroyed when the end comes and our final destination is reached. Paul put it like this in the twentieth verse of Philippians 3:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ....
I wish I could always AMEN Paul and his eagerly awaiting a Savior sentiment. Too often, it simply is in the back of my mind. I know He's coming back but you know, I'm too busy here to have my bags packed. Like other believers, I don't dread His return but I'm not watching the clouds either. Do you know the last word of (They're Coming To) America? It's Today. Not tomorrow or next week or next year- today. Pretty good lesson for me to keep things in order. Some tomorrow will be today.
To watch Neil Diamond's (They're Coming To) America, copy and past the link below:
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