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A lesson about appreciating being in the ‘land of the free’

By Staff | Apr 14, 2008

Chuck Hunt

I think that I, like a lot of people, take my American citizenship a little bit too much for granted.

After all, I was born an American and grew up in a country where everyone has the right to say what they want, to criticize the president if they want, go to any church that they want and to vote how they want. We consider these to be basic rights, and I think we can easily start taking them for granted.

There are other things we enjoy in this country. Things like being able to travel where and when we want. Most of us live in a nice home, have enough food to eat, have nice clothes to wear. A lot of us have more than that; things like cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, snowmobiles and more.

Life is pretty good in America, and sometimes we take it for granted. We reflect on it at times like Thanksgiving Day or Memorial Day.

Veterans seem to be one group of people who don’t take America or freedom for granted. There is another group who don’t take their U.S. Citizenship for granted either, and I had a nice talk with one of those people last week. That group would be naturalized citizens.

These are people, like Colette Emery, who chose to give up being a citizen of one country and become an American citizen. For some that is an easy decision. They come from a country where there is poverty, war, hunger or worse. To them America is the promised land, and they want to belong here.

For others, like Colette, they did not come here as refugees escaping from an intolerable situation. They came here to live, for one reason or another. For Colette it was because she was married to an American.

During the 30 years that she has lived here, it has become home, and she became an American in every way except one. Legally she was still a citizen of Ireland. She has wanted to get her citizenship certificate for many years, and now she has accomplished it.

For most of us, it was easy to be an American. We simply were born here. We didn’t have to make a choice, we didn’t have to take a test, and we didn’t have to spend two years and a thousand bucks to do it.

Which is why we take it a bit more for granted than someone like Colette. We are proud to be Americans, too. But it was a whole lot easier for us. Of course we don’t have a nice certificate declaring us to be a U.S. Citizen, signed by the president, like Colette does either.

We were a bit surprised to learn that there were 450 people who became citizens that same day in St. Paul. That seemed like a lot at one time. However, upon second thought, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There are many folks here who want to enjoy the same freedoms, the same life that we have, here in the land of the free.

So I am not only proud to be an American, I also am grateful to be one.

There is one more Colette Emery story that I can share with you. It is not so much of an American citizenship story, as it is a small world story.

It seems that a woman from Morgan, Minnesota, was traveling through Ireland some time ago.

She had a flat tire on her rental car, and was stuck. Then a nice Irishman came along and changed her flat tire for her. When he found out she was from Minnesota, USA, he told her that he had a sister living there.

So you are probably jumping way ahead of me with this story by now. Yes, that is correct, the good samaritan was Colette’s brother.

When the woman got back home, she not only gave Colette a call, she also came and visited her. They became good friends. Such good friends, in fact, that when the woman was taking another trip to England, she invited Colette to come along as her guest. Colette got to visit her old home in England, her sisters who live there, and her brother came over from Ireland as well.

It was a terrific trip, she says, a wonderful family reunion.

And all due to a flat tire.