On one of those really hot days a couple of weeks ago, I watched a young man jogging down the street in long sleeves and a yellow vest. He was following a garbage truck. The truck would creep past bins at the curb and the jogger would swoop forward, grab the trash and heave it into the maw in the rear.
With a whistle, he’d signal that the driver could goose it a little to the next house. Around the cul de sac like that, barely slowing for each house, the jogger kept up the pace under the August sun.
As he passed me sitting on my front porch, I raised a hand and grinned in a small salutation of appreciation, and he waved back with a grin of his own. Respect both ways.
This is America.
I was born here, so I get to sit in the shade; he just got here from points south, and he is trying to catch up — not with a garbage truck, with the promise I was virtually born to.
He won’t be chasing that truck forever. The hard part may be behind him. If all goes as it has for others willing to jog in the heat and smell the garbage, he may own the truck someday. Or be a mayor or a congressman — at least a state delegate — teacher or surgeon.
Because this is the United States of America.
Not that it’s automatic. Some people are rooting for him to fail, telling him or his family to go back where they came from. Complaining about the crime and the welfare costs and the jobs going to illegals and people who look like him.
But I admire the man jogging along to pick up the garbage.
We see too many stories in the news about gangs and crime and poverty among immigrant populations, and not enough about the accomplishments of those who learn to speak English and are willing to work their way from the very bottom to a foothold to whatever they can reach.
I know a few of the stories.
There was a young woman from Central America who arrived with only the rudiments of the English language. She got work as a waitress and enrolled in community college classes possible through grant funds from the Department of Labor and Licensing.
She stayed with it — the work and the education and a marriage and a growing family, enrolled in McDaniel College and graduated with a degree in social work. Along the way, she was promoted at work to supervisor.
Whatever help she got getting started gave her the means to give something back and contribute to her new country.
That’s just one story. If you look up from the negativity of a few rants on social media or the evening news, you can count them by the hundreds, thousands.
Main Street America has Italian, Greek and Chinese restaurants, with roots going back distant soils. Avenues and neighborhoods, towns and corporations have names and histories originating in England, Germany, France, Spain — Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
This is not just a white Christian nation. It’s also a nation of Jews, Muslims; Asians, Middle East, African, Indian and Pakistani cultures, and a polyglot of languages. It’s the creation of adventurers, explorers and exploiters, opportunists, builders and destroyers who shoved aside natives and slaves who were dragged here. It belongs to all of them, and to the generations of children they brought with them or raised in what is now home.
So I raise a hand and smile and show my respect for the sweating young man in the dirty shirt, who is following a trash truck, but not chasing it. What he pursues is a dream shared by people from everywhere, and lucky enough to be doing it in a country where he deserves at least an opportunity to pursue it.
Dean Minnich retired from journalism and served two terms as county commissioner. His column is published each Thursday. Send comments to email@example.com.