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Why I Chose To Live The Hard Way In The USA?
I have recently posted, on our Wesbsites, an article that articulated the hardships I went through in the USA since I came to Arkansas in 1981. And based on the responses I have received from my readers to date, I have to say that I am amazed how different people see the same story differently. To some it is a hilarious but encouraging piece that deserves attention and positive simulations. To others it is a fact of life overseas, and so they will think twice before they let their families apply for welfare and would rather work hard. But to others it was stupid on my part to push myself to hardships like those mentioned in the article because, like many, “I could have taken the easy road to live in America!”.
Whatever one may say, I have no regrets to have taken that less traveled road and for the following reasons:
At first, new in America, I did not have much choice. But within few years after catching up with life in the USA, my wife and I realized one fact. That it was possible that our kids could be easily lost unless we take decisive actions before it was too late. This was because great America has its unfair share of social problems. Your child can be lost. Your child can be killed. Your child can even be stolen. Or your child can give in to peer-pressure and hence develop life-threatening behaviors. And since we were alien to both America’s culture and the climate, we chose to take all the necessary precautions from any of those happening.
So, we agreed that one of us should always stay with the children at whatever cost and the other, naturally me...should provide for our family needs. And because one paycheck is far too little to fill the needs of any average family in America, like millions of Americans, I had to work on two full time jobs. This is because your needs are too many and most require you to pay!
In one occasion for instance, the following incident took place:
Back in 1995, one morning, as usual I woke up at 6:00am to catch my water laboratory work…. I used to go one hour early to beat traffic… and I headed immediately to the front door. But I was shocked that my 9-year-old daughter was sitting by the door fully dressed like it was time for her to catch her bus. It was cold and snowing outside. “Aabbo (daughter) what happened? Why are you dressed up this early and sitting here alone? You still have another one and half hour to go!” I said. And her answer was: “father, I ran out of my lunch money and I thought I have to catch you before you go!” Then, I remembered that some time before, she told me that at school, children are given two kinds of lunch coupons… one is pink and the other is yellow. She said, those who pay money get the pink card to get lunch and breakfast. But those who get it free should have to give a yellow one to the counter. Unfortunately, I did not give much attention to what that meant at that time!
So, with that in the back of my mind, I said “honey, you could have had the yellow card today and I could give you your lunch money tomorrow!” But as soon as she heard that she fell on the floor, broke into tears, and cried hysterically. At first, I did not really understand what went wrong. So, I begged her to talk to me and explain. And after she regained her composure, she said “dad do not give me anything if you have no money! I will fast today! But get me my lunch money tomorrow!” Then I asked her “why do you have to fast aabbo?” Then she said “because you do not even understand what it means to get a yellow card! You do not even understand how other kids look at you if you give the cook a yellow card! You do not even understand how humiliating it is when other kids see you have a yellow card!” she kept explaining… I said” ok, ok, please forgive me!”
Luckily, I had one hundred dollar bill in my pocket of course from my taxi. And ashamed of myself, I rushed out and went to the nearest grocery store to buy some items or else no one would give me a change. Then I headed home, knocked the door and there she was still sobbing. I hugged her and gave her $10 bill for her next five days lunch and breakfast because the government supplements that with another $2 per child per day. She immediately got up, wiped off her tears and shouted “dad please forgive me! I love you and I really love you …dad, I am sorry I made your day terrible…. Dad it is great I have you!...! Dad you are sweet and I love you.....dad….!”
Naturally, proud of myself though as usual tired, and a little bit rejuvenated but determined to work even harder, I left home. In fact, I was so happy that I said to myself “I should do everything possible no matter how hard it is to support my family. And I should always support my family only with my sweat come what may!”
On another occasion, one late Thursday evening while I was taxing, my same 9-year-old daughter called saying “dad I need you to go with me to school tomorrow because it is the Parent-Teacher Association meeting day. This is because my mother cannot go with me as she has another assignment. But one of you must come with me to school. And since it is Friday, your off day, I need you to quit taxing tomorrow and go with me please!” she said. “At what time honey” I asked! She said “it is 5:00pm dad”.
So, I quit my taxi business early that Friday and made home at exactly 5:00pm and there was my always too anxious daughter ready and waiting for me and together we headed to her school!
And as soon as we made to the school auditorium, the principal instructed all parents to go with their children each of who would give them a tour of whatever each child did during that semester. So, my fifth grade daughter took me to her class and said that she had to give me a tour of what she did in her geography project.
Her project was about the equatorial belt of the world. So, as soon as we were at her class, she said “dad our tour is about the equatorial lands and how life is in there. Please remember it is always raining there. The land is marshy and soft and can swallow you in one go. Huge snakes or constrictors are there. They do not bite you. They wrap themselves over your body, squeeze to death and then swallow you. You can even hear sound of your ribs as they give in to pressure…watch out dad! Please only follow me because I know where those constrictors hide…. “I later learned that artificial python like rubbers were put everywhere in the artificial jungles. “In addition, there are noisy monkeys that always chase one another over the huge tall jungles that cover the sky like umbrellas! Do not give much attention to them. They do not do any harm!” she continued…
So, I carefully followed the directions of my daughter and together we made a safe tour. But after the tour, I was truly amazed how creative her geography teacher was as I was equally amazed how well my 9-year-old understood her subject material. And finally, silently I whispered to myself “that is how creative Americans are and that is how early in childhood one may develop creativity and later may translate those new ideas to real innovations and hence realize his/her American dream! It is too great to be here. It is too great my kids are born here and raised with great morals and self-respect! I am proud of my kids and I am happy with the kind of life I am leading despite its hardships!”
But when we came back from the tour, the principal asked: “how many of you liked his/her child’s project? And certainly impressed with my tour, I was the first to jump and shout “I loved it!” and soon many others followed. Then, the principal said “we want to make a lot of improvements for the school and only with your help, we can. So, we need at least three hundred parents each of who pays $10 per month so that we can buy computers, research project items, expand the library etc. And if you do that, we promise our school is the best in the State of Texas!” And again with enthusiasm I said “I will pay it; please know it is a promise.” And not surprisingly, more than four hundred parents promised to do the same!
This is typical of how even advanced America supports its community services. This is typical of how people put their power and resources together even in the developed world. This is typical of how communities in different parts of the same country, compete with one another. And not surprisingly therefore, this is how excellence is achieved nationwide!
And now let us ask: how many of you in poor Somaliland just do one little thing for their families on daily basis, let alone for their community or country? And how many of you sacrifice for his/her family let alone for others or for poor Somaliland?
In another different incident, at exactly 7:00am United Arab Emirates time where I work as a water quality specialist who monitors the quality of water that comes to Water Treatment Plants and then goes back to environment, I called my daughter in the USA.
At 7:00am my time, it is exactly 10:00pm her time. She was at work and was supposed to work till 12:00 midnight her time. So, ashamed of myself for her working that late when I now have all the free time in this part of the world, I said to her “it is too bad I work for only 6 hours a day and you have to work that late and then go to school tomorrow.” But to my surprise she said “dad, are you crazy? Why should I sleep or stay at home lazy when I can work and make a difference? I am really happy I am doing this!”
On yet another occasion, in one evening when I recently visited my family in the USA, during one of my regular conversations with my children, out of nowhere, they asked me “dad, do you know that it is an insult to live on welfare”. And certainly happy to hear that, I asked “what makes you think so?” Then they said “when someone lives on welfare in the USA, that some one does not pay tax. And if one does not pay tax, then that someone is not really in the statistics of America! And that fact in itself is an insult. Isn’t it dad? Can you tell us why we should accept to be out of the statistics of America? Can you tell us why we should do nothing when we can something and hence be productive?” …they continued.
So, my dear readers, this is the attitude toward life, of those who are raised the right way in North America or Europe. This is the attitude developed by those who are not brought up on welfare. This is the attitude inherent in the true citizens of Americans!
But had my kids been raised on welfare, like many, I bet they would have never worried about their future. I bet they would have never respected their parents or themselves. I bet they would have never cared to get a yellow card at lunchtime. And I bet they would have never worried even if they failed at their schools. And the reason is that if you neglect your kids, they will neglect you and will not respect you. And they will become indifferent toward everything including their lives!
Consequently, today, I have more than ever realized how our sacrifices and hard work had paid off. They paid off because now, it is my children who believe that it is silly to just go school and then waste the rest of their time. So, all work full time and go to school full time. And not surprisingly therefore, all take care of most of their needs! And even more amazingly every one is happy doing that of course like millions of young Americans. This is the normal way of life in super power America! And that is why America is different and that is what makes America unique!
Unfortunately, thousands born in Europe, North America and hundreds of naturalized Somalis do not understand this or appreciate living in there. And just because Western countries are generous, even healthy people there just get welfare and sleep round the clock. And sorry most of them do not worry hence their families live on welfare, which has its own negative impact on the lives of their children!
Fortunately, though I could have taken that easy road, I am not one of them. Like many Somali “intellectuals” everywhere, I could have let my family live on welfare and “enjoy my time”. Or like hundreds of thousands of families do, I could have moved my family from state to state hunting for better welfare. Or otherwise, like tens of thousands, I could have worked and still let my children live on welfare. And like those, I could have spent that saved big money on building huge bungalows back home. And I could have naively bragged for being “a successful man” bashing on others who work hard. And knowing that I am a hard worker, I could have accumulated a lot of money if material is all that matters!
Moreover, like them, I could have swollen accounts in overseas banks when my family actually lives on welfare, which is supposed to be only for the disabled! Or else I could have built mansions in poor Somaliland and still strive to become the sole mover and shaker of Somaliland politics. And I could have gourmet lunch and dinner at the top restaurants of Hargeisa every day!!!
But sorry, my dear readers, I had refused to do that. And now telling my story to you in details, I hope that many will give me high fives simply because my way of life in the USA was hard but was and is much more honorable than that of many others!