Thursday, September 17, 2015

Citoyen des États-Unis

Citoyen des États-Unis
Maty hit a big milestone today. Today, 228 years to the very day since the Constitution of the United States became the law of the land, Maty took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance, administered by a federal judge in the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. She is now a citizen of the United States of America.

Federal Courthouse, courtesy of Senator Hatfield
When I step back and examine the long journey this woman has undertaken, at how far she has come, I can only shake my head in amazement. Consider:

At 24 years of age, Maty left her family and home in the dusty African city of Ouagadougou, half a world away, to make a new life for herself in the far away dreamland they call America. She came here to serve as a nanny for a young family in Portland. The year was 2004 and the father of that family had been called to serve in the Iraq war. The mother, an immigrant from Africa herself, needed help caring for her two children. The baby boy, Matthew, was a special needs child.

At that time, Maty commanded a mere handful of badly pronounced English words and phrases. She was (and is) an excellent cook and a coiffure and she had (and has) a beautiful capacity for empathy and compassion, but beyond those, she had no "marketable" skills.

Nadia reassures Maty, who waits nervously to take her seat in the well of the courtroom
In the ensuing eleven years, Maty has:
  • learned to read, write, and speak English;
  • earned state certification as a nursing assistant;
  • learned to drive a car and obtained an Oregon State Driver's License;
  • joined a union and worked as a health care professional;
  • and now, become a citizen of the United States of America.
Naturalization oath administered 
She has also traveled, by herself, across the world and the United States and has surrounded herself with an entire community of people for whom she is family. (She also got married, somewhere in there.)

Thoughtful, when it was over
On the drive from the courthouse, Nadia and I quizzed her about her plans for the future. "I want to learn to swim," she said. "And I want to go back to school for more English studies."

So, although she's very proud to be a citizen of this country, she's not resting on her laurels.

Lady of the day and her proud hubby
Perhaps the most amazing quality of this woman, in my mind, is her humility. When I told her I planned to write a blog post about her Big Day, she told me, "Make sure to write that I say 'thank you' to God.'" She is devout, my woman.

"And say thank you to Matthew, too. He's the reason I came here."
Maty and Matthew
Maty. So full of love and compassion. And so determined and strong. America and I are lucky to have her.

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