Sunday, November 15, 2009


Picture is the logo for Children's Camps International

Being an immigrant gives one an automatic feeling of belonging to something bigger—a feeling of global citizenship perhaps. This was especially true for me being born in Northern Ireland and immigrating to Canada.

But Northern Ireland officially belongs to England, so as a citizen of that country; I feel genuine love and a sense of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II. Besides, she’s been a wonderful sovereign and deserves my respect.

Thing is, ask any resident of Northern Ireland if they’re Irish and they’ll say, “Of course I am.”

And I too love Ireland, and feel linked that great and charming culture of beating bodhráns, flutes and penny whistles. I am Irish. Period. I can live on tea and potatoes quite happily.

So coming from those six small counties in the Northeastern part of that island called Ireland, I feel Irish, British, and of course Scottish. To the horror of my youngest son, I also love the sound of bag pipes. It was my Scottish ancestors years ago that the English moved onto Irish farms when they supplanted the Irish that were living there. But that was centuries ago. Time to move on.

Add to that the loyalties I gained when we immigrated to Canada. As a kid I grew up in the Niagara Peninsula and my friends were usually first or second generation Canadian. Like me their roots were British, or Italian, or Polish, or from any one of several shifting sections of Europe at the time. I grew up listening to all kinds of dialects and smelling the aromas from the neighborhood of tomato and basil, of cabbage rolls and highly spiced sausage, of home-made wine, and stronger coffee than I was ever used to. So different from spuds, tea and cabbage. Seriously, my mother was a wonderful cook.

Add to that the music I listened to from across the border in the United States. Detroit’s rhythmic and blue sounds of Mo-Town music got me through my teens. Groups like The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and my all-time-favorite, Marvin Gaye and his song 'What's Going On'.

The Vietnam War took place during my childhood. As a pre-teen just as I was becoming aware of the world, I'd watch the six o’clock news and I see American soldiers being beaten while they marched through the streets of Hanoi. That scared the life out of me when I was 12 years old. Those young POW’s were from just across the border, and I felt a kinship.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about the Canadian Cultural Mosaic. In the United States they refer to that wonderful blending of immigrant cultures as The Melting Pot.

A mosaic is a beautiful art form to view—all sparking colors and depth of contrast. The melting pot gives the sense of warmth, a full stomach, and comfort. Either way, it’s a good thing. As someone not born on North American soil, I’m just plain grateful to be here.

But I’m also a citizen of a place greater than Canada or the United States. I belong to the family of God. Heaven is stamped as my home on my eternal passport.

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