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Kids is kids

I was watching my oldest granddaughter play basketball. I’m very proud of all of my grandchildren, but they’re all individuals, with their own talents and interests. We spend a lot of time bouncing between T-ball games, gymnastics events, theatre productions and too many other activities to mention. Today I was watching basketball.

This girl is a wonder. She came to us from Ethiopia eight years ago. She was four years old and had already learned two languages – the village where she was born had its own dialect, and when she was moved to an orphanage, she had to learn another. Then, of course, she rapidly learned English.

Now she’s in junior high, getting good grades, performing in the school musical, and playing hard at each sport in its own season. We are blessed beyond all measure to have her and her siblings in our family.

More importantly, the United States is lucky to have her. I’m expecting my thank you note with 300 million signatures any day now.

I am massively puzzled by the debate we’re having as to whether or not immigrants are good or bad for our country. I’m trying to be tactful here, but it is, quite frankly, a ridiculous argument. Of all the countries in the world, the United States is the living embodiment of the value of immigration. Without immigrants we aren’t even a country.

Now, if you’re talking documented vs. undocumented, that’s a different discussion. It’s a bad idea to have undocumented people in the country. Among other reasons, it puts too many people in the shadows, and people living in the shadows are vulnerable to abuse. It is a blight on our country that our elected officials haven’t been able to come up with some type of secure-borders/pathway-to-citizenship plan. When I think about the stupid things we talk about in Washington, the time we spend ignoring issues that really matter is maddening.

What brought this all to mind during a junior high basketball game was being contacted by a friend of mine who was seeking some advice. He’s trying to get a young woman a college education. He’s been a teacher a long time, in a number of different countries and he currently has student who is just outstanding, so he’s trying to make sure she has a chance to fulfill her potential.

That’s a really big deal. Who knows how many Einsteins or Marie Curies go undiscovered every year simply because they live in a place where educational opportunities don’t exist. Any one of the many teachers I’ve known could name a student who had a world of potential, but also had too many obstacles dragging them down. And every one of those students who never gets a real chance is not only a personal tragedy, it is also a loss for all of us.

It’s an issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. This is a big, complicated world with a lot of problems, and to solve those problems we need as many people as possible rowing in the same direction, scrambling for new ideas and moving us all forward. There have been Nobel Prize winners from 77 different countries. Talent and potential are spread equally across the world. If opportunity was distributed just as evenly this would be a better world for all of us.

My friend has started a GoFundMe site for his stellar student, in hopes of getting people to help this young woman along. It’s a very admirable, but frustrating thing to have to do. Another friend is fond of saying, “Hey, kids is kids.” It’s one of those self-evident statements that shouldn’t prompt any arguments, particularly not this time of year, as Christmas approaches.

Just some thoughts from the bleachers, on a pleasant Saturday morning.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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