I try to be a lifelong learner and have had lots of experiences that broaden my horizons. Although I have lived here for 17 years, I grew up in Central New York. We cherished the stories of my Irish grandmother and how she immigrated to this country. I am proud of how hard she worked, her courage, and her culture that she passed on to us. I always thought of myself as Irish until I went to Ireland when I was a child. The folks in town would call us, “The Yanks that have come to visit.” It was my first realization that I was only Irish in the US and an American to everyone else in the world.
Today, my family has many branches and many voices. New family members from the Netherlands continue to expand our world view. Immigrant stories from Guyana and Moldova have added even greater understanding to my grandmother’s story. I see the commonality between them: reaching for the American dream, hard work, struggle and pride in a shared heritage. I also see how the color of our skin affects our ability to reach that American dream, how our hard work is valued, and how our struggles and pride in heritage are perceived.
As I continue to learn, I have set some goals:
I want to treat each person as an individual. I learn their name, use it and let them show me who they are rather than following any old assumptions that pop up. I want them to feel like they are being seen for who they are and feel safe.
I try to speak up, but most importantly, I am trying to listen. There are so many wonderful people here that have amazing stories to tell and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to hear them.