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4th of July in Sacramento

Jim Young is a retired from the California Department of Commerce.
Jim Young's Iraqui friends

A few years ago, I joined a group known as World Relief Sacramento as a volunteer. According to its website: "World Relief Sacramento has been resettling refugees since 1989. Over the last 27 years, we have resettled over 30,000 refugees into the Sacramento region."

I had recently earned a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification from Sacramento State and I wanted to help these refugees learn English as part of World Relief's outreach programs. In addition to teaching them English, I taught them various things about American culture. I wanted these folks to feel welcome and integrated into our community. So my students, who were mostly from Iraq and Muslins, learned about American customs surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and other holidays as part of my English language lessons.

As the 4th of July approached, I was working with a particularly friendly Iraqi family, so I invited them to come with me to see the fireworks display at Cal Expo. On the evening of the 4th, we started our evening out with ice cream treats at Leatherby's on Arden Way. Everyone enjoyed his or her desserts. The father told me that Bagdad had a family creamery like this before the Iraqi economy fell apart because of its wartime deprivations. His little daughter was particularly adamant that she and her family needed to come back to Leatherby's soon.






Then, we drove to Cal Expo, parked, and joined the surging crowd walking to the grandstands. As we mixed with spectators at this All-American event, an anxious thought crossed my mind. The wife was wearing her hijab (headscarf) and a flowing robe that was very modest and nearly touched the ground. The whole family definitely looked like they had come from somewhere other than the United States. What if some redneck wearing his MAGA hat confronts us and makes a scene? What would I do? How should I act?

After a spectacular firework show with ample patriotic music and rhetoric, we silently moved back with the crowd to my parked car; however, my worries about some jerk making a scene was totally unfounded. In fact quite the opposite happened. My Iraqi guests found several of their fellow countrymen in the crowd and soon a boisterous conversation broke out in Arabic. Pretty soon, I felt like the minority in the group, but after a few minutes my Iraqi family introduced me to their friends and warm greetings and feelings were exchanged.

One reason I like Sacramento is because of its diversity. The motto of the United States is e pluribus unum, out of many, one. We come from various countries, we maintain various aspects of our native culture; nevertheless, we are Americans. This is one of the values we should be celebrating on this our nation's 243rd birthday. Happy 4th of July everyone!

~ Jim Young















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