Americans have it better than they know

I met a man from Columbia not so long ago. I’ll call him, Roberto. He’s retired living in Northern California. He managed to retire well on a acreage. That can be a solid acheivement for a 50 year old immigrant in an area where small houses go for about a million dollars.

Up until about seven years of age, he lived in Columbia. In Columbia, getting an education is not for everyone. It’s exclusive. In his words, you have to be in either the wealthy class or you have some sort of genius if you’re poor.

His aunt had applied for a green card to the United States and made her way to boston. She took a job as a maid and worked for a few years. After some time had passed and, I guess the green cards status was in full effect (I’m not familiar with how it works), she sent for her sister and her three children. The subject of this post was one of those children.

She also took a job as a maid and got her children in school. She focused on their education and they all knew how important it was. Back home in Columbia, there was no chance of an education like they were getting and they knew it.

Roberto said he always knew from a young age how important it was to get educated. He said he always remembered attention and focus on it. He told me about one teacher who had helped him with an application and a letter of recommendation to get him into Boston College, a private school. He talked of more deliberate acts that continually kept him on the path to a solid education. This path worked well for him. He’s wealthy and retired at 50.

Contrast that with my upbringing. I don’t fault my parents in anyway. I am doing just fine and I’m on track to retiring early if I choose. However, here’s the contrast. I grew up in Oklahoma City, OK. None of my friends that I grew up with ever even talked about College or grades. Even in my high school, the only discussion about college was about the girls we might find or the beer we’d certainly drink. There was no focus on education. I didn’t even have a clue as to what I might be interested in getting educated in. I didn’t know what my options were. The only reason I did well in high school was because I sought a girl who was into straight A’s. I wasn’t focused on the education. I was focused on her and what I needed to do to get and keep her interested in me. When I finished high school, there was not any direction from my elders on whether to attend college or not. The question I got was, “What are you going to do now?”

The environment was totally different. Where I grew up, people had whatever they needed and didn’t need to worry about what wouldn’t be available. Where Robert grew up, people didn’t have whatever they needed and needed to worry a lot about what might not be available. I had a stable country. Roberto did not. I’m sure there are other class factors here to contrast as well.

The important part is the environment. The environment dictates the thinking. What’s interesting to me is that my environment had everything so I didn’t feel a need to make anything happen. Roberto’s environment was the opposite so he did feel a need to make things happen. I’ve often heard that the children of hard working immigrants often do well. This is because they know the importance of an education and they see the hard work ethic purveyed by their parents. Mix the two and, Viola! Nice job, nice income, nice house…the whole environment gets setup with every thing that’s needed. I should state that the immigrant’s grandchildren, I’ve heard generalized, don’t do as well as the parents. They miss the hardship and the work ethic to know what’s important and thus squander themselves. Perhaps here is a parallel to my experience?

4 thoughts on “Americans have it better than they know

  1. Anonymous Reply

    Hi, I completely agree that many Americans, perhaps most, don’t internalize the feeling of being amazingly fortunate. We live like Kings and Queens, but feel unfortunate if our automobile is a few years old or not a luxury model.
    Sigh, I am a baby boomer. My dad is a WWII “hero”. I enjoyed a “happy days” high school experience and a “hippy” college experience. I really thought my generation was changing the group consciousness of our national idenity.
    Some of us stayed with our “spiritual” ideals, but out of “necessity”, bought into the business model that the Eisenhower generation dreamed up, ala the jetsons. Our carelessness and lack of gratitude in persuing our good life has helped perpetuate global warming, and a continuing tolerance for the greed ethic and generally a worship of all things “wealth”. (Ironically, this has caused us to be a Nation deeply in debt to our possessions, robbing us of real wealth.)
    Deep in our national unconscious is the axiom “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Since the 70s scientists, and futurists have been foreseeing our current situation, the destruction of our natural world for our comfort, convienience and livelihoods,plus the rapidly increasing world population and the pressures humanity places on this little ball of mud. I am grateful that some of the crisis is becoming apparent so we will be motivated to make some changes .
    I “know” that every challange carries multiple solutions. I have been frustrated in the past by my percieved lack of influence as a private individual on the forces of finance that drive the larger dynamics of resource allocation and choices that have long term effects on our lifestyles, like allowing sprawling supurbs instead of creating wonderful closely knit city communities surrounded by green space, where we can walk everywhere. Where we pool our intellects and resources to focus on using challanges to drive new ways of seeing ourselves and how we relate to each other.
    The pressures from my family to conform to their “values” was tremendous. My career was chosen for me, I was expected to be a certain type of person and live a certain way. This coursed me into a total identity crisis, since I was not allowed to be simply me. I am now discovering my prefered roles as an adult.
    I think many of my peers experienced this and we are only now awakening to our authentic identities. Most may never awaken, as they have bought the old story hook line and sinker.
    Ergo, some of us were very careful not to force our ideas of “who and what to be when we grow” up on our kids. It sounds like you were one of the lucky ones that was allowed to chose for yourself.
    Each of us have the opportunity to either use or rise above our influences to achieve our dreams.
    I feel that it is who I am! that opens the doors of perception to greater experience.
    I now practice using my inner sight to visualize all of our problems being solved. I see a world of reasonable, honorable wise and well advised leaders, etc.
    In some businesses, bosses don’t let anyone bring up a problem at a meeting until they have researched and found at least two possible solutions to suggest. As we all begin to use this idea, things will get better and better!

  2. Abraham Reply

    True, true, true. Strong will is evident in your writing. That’s a good fire.

    You’re correct. I’m very, very lucky. I’m thankful I know it.

  3. mary Reply

    My father was an immigrant. He thought an education for girls was wasted, their role was “housewife/mother”. The siblings that are doing well, are the ones that went to college.

    Tho’ I grew up during the “happy days” & “hippy” era, didn’t have that lifestyle so many of my peers experience. Those that did, seem to be those that live the American dream.

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