I had the pleasure of attending a Naturalization Ceremony for US citizenship this past week. It was held at the River Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, so I expected, perhaps a couple of hundred people, including guests like myself. What I witnessed was 533 individuals, from 81 different countries take an oath to become an American citizen. I was amazed, somewhat by the number of people, but more so by the number of countries being represented. Keep in mind, Minnesota is the midwest. I would have expected numbers like these in New York, Miami or Los Angeles, but here! As the ceremony began and as the name of each country was read, I couldn’t help thinking of how much some of these people had overcome, just to be standing in this room today.
For many, just leaving their country must have been difficult, but after arriving, there is a lengthy process involved in becoming a citizen; applications, interviews, even a civics test. 100 questions on topics I know I must have learned at some point (fourth grade?), but many of which I’ve long forgotten. And, as I listened to the judge, in this official court proceeding, my thoughts began to shift from all of those strangers in the room to myself and my life here in the United States. I was born here and I consider myself very patriotic, but I admit, I take many of the privileges of being a citizen for granted. I’m always proud to be an American, but that day, and each morning since, I’ve made this thought a part of my gratitude practice: “I feel immense gratitude for being born here, in this country.”
Another part of the event, was devoted to completion of a voter registration form. A very distinguished lady, from the League of Women Voters, walked the group through the process of filling out this form that will allow them to participate in one of the most important parts of a democracy, voting. I participate in all elections, and although the right to vote is something that I appreciate as a citizen, it’s one I often take for granted as a woman. I am truly grateful for being born at a time when I am able to freely exercise my rights, including the right to vote.
So as I congratulated the newly minted citizens around me, I paused a moment to “renew my citizenship”, feeling immensely grateful for being born in this place and time. I challenge each of you to look around at what you may be taking for granted each day and renew your appreciation and feel gratitude. I’d love to hear what you discover.