This story tells of an America that I remember from my youth. It also tells of an America today, but for very few. It is American as I would like it to be.
This Washington Post piece chronicles the days after 44 year-old Oscar Antonio Argueta, a documented immigrant and day-laborer, died suddenly in his home in Northwest Washington. It tells how his community here in the U.S. arranged to send him back to his parents in El Salvador for burial. They are much too poor to spare the money, but making a sacrifice, they believe, is the right thing to do. He was a faithful partner to his girlfriend, a beloved father to his son, and well respected compañero to his fellow day-laborers.
I wish this nation had more communities like Oscar Arguenta’s. I remember having a community much like this as a child growing up in West Virginia. Like this group of immigrants, we cared about one another, supported one another in our times of need. We also talked to and spent time with each other. Today, in my affluent suburban neighborhood, we barely have time to say hello. Is my neighbor ill? suffering a job loss or depression? I do not know.
This is why, when I read about the folks in places like Herndon, VA and Hazleton, PA, I think, “I wish I lived next door to those people,” but I don’t mean those nasty American citizens who think a productive use of their time is spent hating and alienating their neighbors. I wish those day-laborers were my neighbors. They know what “community” and “family” means, and are willing to make the sacrifices to keep their communities and families together. In fact, I wish American looked more like this immigrant community, and I hope that as immigrants settle and incorporate themselves into our nation, they are able to make this mark on our lives. We desperately need it.