I didn’t want Hispanic Heritage Month (which is celebrated between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15) to end without recognizing the many Hispanic men, women and families in the U.S., and the contributions they make to our country.
Recent stats put Hispanics and Latinos at about 17 percent of the total U.S. population, or 56.5 million. They’re a varied group of people: Hispanics can come from any of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries around the world, and each country has its own culture, cuisine, and customs.
According to Pew Research, “The foreign-born Latino population has increased to nearly 20 times its size over the past half century, from less than 1 million in 1960 to 19.4 million in 2015.”
For those who haven’t traveled or lived abroad, it can be a bit of a challenge to fully appreciate the courage it takes to move to a new country and start a new life. So many things we assume to be true are actually an expression of our culture and environment.
I experienced a taste of what immigrants to our country face during college, when I spent a year in Japan. My assumptions on how things should be done were challenged regularly, and I had my share of language faux pas.
And that’s why I think it takes a special kind of person to legally immigrate to a new country – and why the rest of us can learn something from U.S. Hispanic immigrants.
To that end, I want to share a list of qualities many immigrants have that are worth emulating. After all, almost all of us are descendants of immigrants of long ago who possessed this admirable ethic. This list is taken from a larger one compiled by Brian Buffini – an Irish immigrant to this country – in his book, “The Emigrant Edge: How to Make It Big in America.”
1. Have a Do-Whatever-It-Takes Mindset
“Successful immigrants are willing to get out of their comfort zones, take risks, and make difficult decisions,” Buffini writes.
What a great encouragement and challenge that is to us Christians – we more than anyone else should be open to adventure, because it’s the Lord God who is leading! I remember the famous John A. Shedd quote that says, “A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are built for.” Likewise, as Christians we do not exist for safety and security – we are His workmanship to do good works for His glory, no matter the odds.
2. A willingness to work hard
Most immigrants start from nothing and have to work their way up – and that’s something that requires hard work, sacrifice and integrity.
Likewise, Christians should have a “theology of work” that guides our lives. Like Tim Keller says, “Faith gives you a concept of the dignity and worth of all work, even simple work, without which work could bore you.”
3. A heartfelt spirit of gratitude
Time and time again we’ve seen immigrants to this country show deep appreciation for the opportunity to better themselves, provide for their family, and perhaps even escape a bad situation in their native land. That spirit of thankfulness helps them ride out the tough times that come when you’re living in a new country.
Likewise, Christians should be marked by their life of gratitude – after all, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Acknowledging His grace and gifts to us helps keep things in perspective when we go through trials.
4. A commitment to delay gratification
All of us have heard about immigrants who have reached a certain level of success or titles in their native country, only to give it all up to start at the bottom here. Why do they do it? Because they think long term and know that eventually, the sacrifice and investment will be worth it.
Similarly, those of us who are Christians live with our eyes fixed on the prize – Jesus Christ. For that reason, we store up treasures in heaven and we “suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world,” as the late Justice Antonin Scalia once said.
Indeed, there’s a lot to celebrate – and learn – during Hispanic Heritage Month. I’m thankful for the contributions these cultures have given to the United States.