Steve Vaccariello for Reader's DigestA basket sits by my front door. It’s my daughters’ shoe basket, and it’s spilling over with sneakers, flip-flops, rain boots, snow boots, Crocs for around the house, and Merrells for hikes in the woods.
When I look at the photograph on page 68, that basket is all I can see. Some of the girls pictured there couldn’t “bring an extra pair of shoes to the photo shoot in case it rains,” as we’d suggested. In their families, shoes are shared among siblings. What they wore was all they had.
The girls are refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Rwanda, Congo, and Sudan who have legally resettled in Chicago. Twenty-six-year-old Blair Brettschneider started a program to help them with everything from their English to their résumés.
Some of the girls in this picture have fled bombs and lost family. We have welcomed them to our shores and told them to go ahead and start a new life in a place where they will be safe. They have had to adjust to all the seriousness, silliness, and scrutiny that is an American high school while assuming the role of caretaker for their families—minding siblings, translating the mail, accompanying relatives to doctors’ appointments. So I look at this picture, and I see the extraordinary.
I also see something blissfully ordinary. I see girls who giggle and whisper. They do cartwheels on the lawn and take selfies with their phones. I look at the picture, and I see girls who are indescribably grateful to be here, and that makes me grateful to be American. What do you see?
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