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12 October 2015

Today is a national holiday in the United States. It goes by several names but whatever it's called, some companies just don't bother to honor it.

Emma Lazarus. The mother of exiles.

We, however, take our holidays seriously.

They are good opportunities to reflect on what's been going on, for one thing. We can escape the stimuli aimed at us 24/7 and just sit down quietly with a cup of coffee to see what pops into our head.

This morning, of course, Columbus popped into our head. Followed swiftly by indigenous peoples. Which brought to mind the Syrian diaspora, the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, the politicians who want to build fences, the walls we have celebrated as they crumbled down.

It was sort of a slide show. The images flashed before us briefly, one quickly replaced by another. But the progression of images was making us sad.

We turned our thoughts to Saturday afternoon when we had been sitting around a round table with some friends. At one point, we began talking about where some of our families had come from.

Among our ancestors had been a paper son from China. Another had escaped the Holocaust. Yet another had come earlier to escape war in Europe. And the last had left Syria, calling it a land of "bandits and thieves," for a decent life here.

We were all from somewhere else. Exiles. Whose very different children had come to sit at a round table as friends instead of waging war against each other in the old countries.

Sitting there, our glass of wine not yet emptied, we tried to remember the lines of that famous poem about the Statue of Liberty:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Acknowledging that welcoming spirit, that fundamental belief in the value of each person regardless of their plight, seems to us like the best way to celebrate this holiday.

Almost all our families once stood outside those "sea-washed, sunset gates" gazing gratefully at that "lamp beside the golden door." Wherever we have come from, we have prospered.

So on this national holiday we celebrate those now on their way toward a better life. And we wish no less for them than the blessings we have enjoyed.

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