Last night my family attended my school's first ever International Night.
I didn't know what to expect. I wasn't involved in the planning of this event, so when I arrived, I was blown away by all that we experienced. Lining the walls of the cafeteria and the hallway were booths featuring countries from around the world, each managed by students and families who originated from those countries.
My school is filled with immigrants from all over the world:
Nepal, Israel, Peru, China, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Vietnam, Mexico, Korea, Columbia and many, many more.
Each one of these booths featured foods, information, and artifacts from the country, and it was staffed by adults and children who were excited to tell us all about their homeland.
Later, there were performances in a packed auditorium. We watched a Chinese yoyo demonstration, a martial arts demonstration, and lots and lots of dancing and music from all around the world.
Elysha and the kids sat between a Nepalese family and two children from Vietnam. I watched one of my colleagues perform an Irish step dance. I chatted with folks from Poland, Peru, Columbia, and Mexico.
Best of all, I didn't sit with my family. I chose to stand, partially because I wanted to be ready to take photos and videos of some of my student performers, but also because I wanted to watch my children's faces as they watched the performances. I love to see the wonder in Clara and Charlie's eyes as they watch something new and exciting, and these performances did not disappoint.
The little girl who loves learning about new countries and cultures was enthralled by every moment, and the boy who can't sit still for a single second sat still for nearly the entire time. It was as much fun to watch them as it was to watch the action taking place onstage.
It was a beautiful celebration of the many cultures that come together within our schoolhouse walls every day.
We live in a country of immigrants, and this is one of our greatest blessings. My daughter ate Chinese moon cake and Irish cheese. She chatted with a student from China and asked questions from an immigrant of Sweden. Charlie was awestruck by the model of the Taj Mahal and stared in fascination at the Chinese yoyo. He "might want to learn to Irish step dance."
What a remarkable evening of learning, connection, and understanding.
There are people in our country today who truly believe that America is a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian nation, despite everything that our Funding Father's wrote and the long and storied history of the people who built this country. There are people in this country who would have us close our borders to the world, even when every economic study published states clearly and unequivocally that immigration strengthens a nation's economy.
We have a President who would build a wall on our Southern border. We have a President who seeks to reduce immigration in our country to its lowest levels ever by removing family reunification systems and threatening DACA recipients by eliminating their protections.
We have a President who routinely lies about the rate of illegal immigration and characterizes immigrants - documented and undocumented - in the most vile terms.
We have a President who has been routinely deporting US military veterans because of their immigration status. They are good enough to risk their lives for us in Afghanistan and Iraq but not good enough to continue to reside in this country.
Last night was a bold reminder about how beautiful our country can be when people of different cultures come together for a common cause. My heart and spirit were lifted last night as I looked across an auditorium that was awash in every color under the rainbow and saw nothing but smiling, happy faces.