When I was growing up in the 1950s in Seattle I was fascinated by the stories my elderly relatives told of “the olden days.” It doesn’t seem possible that I could have known people who were born in the 1880s, but I did, because my grandparents’ generation was of that time period. They were born in the eastern USA and as young people they journeyed Out West to find new opportunities in the State of Washington. They told of living through world wars and economic depressions, yet always with faith in God’s guidance and provision for them.
In addition to their migration Out West in the past 100 + years, generations of my family always carried with them the story of our Scottish forbears. Our ancestors arrived in the USA from Scotland with a wonderful heritage of hope, faith, courage, and joyful expression through the music and dance of Celtic culture. In the present generation one of my cousins is the founder and director of the Celtic Arts Foundation in Mt. Vernon, WA., which promotes Celtic culture through music instruction, events and other educational activities.
In pondering my own cultural heritage, I thought back to the waves of immigrants who have come to Seattle in my lifetime. My first exposure to immigrants was in the 1970s when our church reached out to refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, who were being resettled in Seattle. In succeeding years came waves of immigrants from former Soviet bloc countries, from Korea, India, Africa and every continent in-between! The cultural mix has added to the richness of our lives, spicing up the American soup. Each new generation of immigrants brings the best of their culture while also seeking what it means to be an American.
It sometimes seems that Seattle has received representatives from every country in the world. I’ll never forget the time I asked a woman where she was from, and she answered, “Eritrea.” I nodded politely, trying to hide the fact that I had never heard of that country! Like the immigrants of generations past, whether from Scotland, Sudan, Sweden, Syria or countries whose names we are not familiar with, today’s immigrants still come in search of the American Dream of freedom from war and persecution, and the opportunity to pursue a better life.
In appreciation of immigrant heritage, I will begin the year 2016 on this blog with stories of newcomers to Seattle, whether from “back East” or overseas. The immigrants’ story is our gift from the past which helps us to understand that our American heritage means freedom and opportunity for ALL.