I had the privilege of visiting Ellis Island last week and it amazed me to hear about immigrants’ experiences in their journey to the United States. It caused me to reflect on my own parents’ stories, especially about both my father and my husband’s father.
Each one left their native Kerala as a young man and they were the first in their families to leave India in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when immigration from India was in its early stages. I often think about the courage they had to leave all that they ever knew: their families and their very way of life, all in pursuit of the American dream. Going from a farming village to boarding a plane with just a few dollars in their pockets and then, coming to a foreign country where the language and customs were completely unfamiliar to them leaves me in awe. Sadly they were not greeted by an entourage of family and friends to welcome them to their new home. Each one pursued an education here and began working not only to support themselves, but to support their parents and siblings back home. It wasn’t a glamorous life as they were alone and even went without meals during the breaks at school because they didn’t have family to go to. In fact, their contact with their families was limited to letters they mailed and then, waiting for weeks to receive a response.
As time progressed, each one married but with just a few friends in attendance. The very thought of not having parents or siblings present on such a special day breaks my heart. Yet, they did it all while continuing to help their families so that their parents and siblings way of life improved with better homes, education and lovely weddings. Eventually, they were able to bring their siblings to the United States and help them get on their feet until they were ready to launch out on their own. Each of our houses were full with relatives when we were young, but there was always food on the table and laughter echoing in the rooms.
But those who truly reaped the rewards of such sacrifices were us, their children. Unlike our fathers, we never knew what it was like to go even one day without a basic need being met. Their hard work and saving their earnings allowed us to be raised in upper middle class families who were given delicious meal after delicious meal, clothes galore, a beautiful home to live in, an excellent education and truly, a blessed life. We learned about the importance of a strong work ethic, the tightly knit bonds of family, and that God alone is our Provider.
The sacrifices our earthly fathers made reminds me of the most selfless sacrifice made by our Heavenly Father. Though God has just one Beloved Son, He “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure”
(Lyrics by Stuart Townend)
I thank God for the strength and tenacity He gave to our fathers to make countless sacrifices so that we can have treasure after treasure. What an amazing legacy they have given us! And my heart is filled with praise and gratitude to God our Father for His boundless love to make the greatest sacrifice of all so you and I have the greatest treasure of all: eternal life.