Friday, September 30, 2011

A Voice From Iran

At the recent Staff Appreciation lunch for our church I was seated next to a lovely woman who cares for children in the preschool program and learned she is a recent immigrant from Iran. I intended to write about her, but got diverted onto other things these last few weeks.

Concern about the young Iranian pastor who has been sentenced to death because he will not renounce his faith prompted me to write this post because my new friend's story gives background to the situation.

I'll call her Maryam. She and her family are Christian Iranians, like the young pastor. They have never been Muslims.  Maryam told me her extended family fled Iran about 7 years ago because of religious persecution. It became so intense that they feared for their lives. I asked her how she got out of the country and she said that part wasn't difficult, but it was difficult to get a visa to leave that part of the world.

Maryam and family made their way to Abu Dhabi where they were able to get permission to come to the USA and Canada on the grounds of religious persecution. Her sister and mother and some other family members are in Canada. She and her husband and three children came to Houston because they had a relative already living here.

We talked about her children and how well they are doing in school here. She observed that her oldest daughter had a bit more difficulty adapting to English and the new enviornment but that her youngest child, a son, "didn't remember much about living in Iran" and was thoroughly Americanized.

Maryam's English is excellent, but not quite fluent. She paused frequently to compose what she was going to say and spoke with a distinct but charming accent. Her family attends a large Baptist church in Houston and she said she loves working at our church in a Christian setting.

I've thought a lot about Maryam since meeting her and especially with the tragic situation surrounding her young fellow countryman in the news. The White House and Speaker John Boehner have called on Iran to spare his life. Let's join Maryam in praying for him.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

South in the Mouth

"Where are you from?" was the question El Jefe and I kept getting the minute we introduced ourselves to other couples at a Yale alum event we attended last weekend in New Haven, Connecticut.

"I knew you were from somewhere in the South!" was the invariable response to our acknowledgement that yes, we are from Texas. 

This brought back memories for both of us. Memories of similar conversations when we were students in Ivy League colleges (I went to Cornell)  in the late 1960's when very few Texans ventured "up north" for school . Somehow we thought that our accents had become less distinct over the years, but clearly we were wrong about that.

Back in the day there was a definite bias against all things southern and all things Texan on those campuses, so those conversations were not comfortable ones. In defense, we found ourselves exaggerating our accents, displaying Texas flags in our dorm rooms, and gathering with the handful of other Texas ex-pats to celebrate Texas Independence Day on March 2.

Both our daughters went out of state to school--Averill to Yale and Jane to the University of the South (Tennessee). They continued the tradition of displaying the Texas flags and every March 2 I shipped tamales and chili to them for their own Texas Independence Day celebrations. 

This time, though, we found our accents an advantage because the questions led to interesting conversations with people we would not meet otherwise. They all asked us about Governor Rick Perry's candidacy  for the GOP Presidential nomination, and surprisingly to us, the people we spoke with (all from Blue States) expressed support for Anybody But Obama. That's a real change from the days when Texan Presidents LBJ and GWB(43) were vilified on campus. 

Apparently our fellow Baby Boomers reflect the Sir Winston Churchill's famous observation: "Anyone who is not a liberal in his youth has no heart. Anyone who remains so as he matures has no brain!" 

I know that I do.