This isn’t your typical survival story. The people I’m going to tell you about didn’t make it out alive from an earthquake, they didn’t survive a political upheaval, and they didn’t come out the other end of a financial devastation smelling like roses.
This is the story of a man and his family, and their journey from immigration to citizenship in America. It was a legal journey that began with a burning desire in his heart. Through sheer grit and determination, he managed to grab a piece of the American dream and he made it his reality.
My husband and I first met this family when they contacted us to do a home inspection for them. Actually, their young daughter, a college freshman, called to get prices. After talking with her for several minutes, she explained that her mother and father didn’t speak English very well and that she’d handle the business end of things. We agreed to a price and I emailed her the contract. We made an appointment to inspect the house the next day.
When we got there, we were greeted by two young girls. One was a high school senior, and the other was a high school freshman. They had notepads and pens, and explained that they were going to walk through the inspection with us so that they could go home and explain to their parents our findings. Neither one of the girls was the one I spoke with the day before.
They soon relaxed as we went through the inspection, and even began laughing and talking. We learned that they were from the Philippines, and that there were actually 5 sisters. Because two of the sisters were over 21, they had not been allowed to travel on the family visa. Their father worked at the local hospital in the janitorial department during the day and at a quick stop in the evening. They were sweet and respectful, and paid careful attention to all that we said.
At the end we explained to them that we would write up our report and then give them a call to go over the report with them. There were several major issues with the house they were looking at, and we wanted to make sure that the family understood the findings.
Three days later we pulled up into the driveway of the house the family was renting at the time. It was a modest three-bedroom, one bath brick home, much like the house they were looking to buy. There were 5-gallon flower pots under the carport, and each one sported a plant of one type or another.
As we got out of the car, the carport door opened and three girls ran out to greet us. They welcomed us to their home and when we walked inside, we noticed the table was set for lunch. We immediately felt awkward, as we had not meant to interrupt their mealtime, and explained that we could come back a little later, after they had finished eating.
“Oh no!” explained the eldest daughter. “This is for you!” I gave her a puzzled look.
She explained that in their country, when a guest comes to the home, it was only proper to offer them some food. The father walked in, smiled, and shook my husband’s hand. Their mother was a shy woman that would not look us in the eye. She brought us each a plate with a sandwich and another Philippine dish, and then quickly retreated to the back of the house.
As we sat there and ate, we talked with the girls and soon found out more about their family. The oldest daughter was in college, seeking her degree as a nurse. She worked full-time in addition to school. The middle daughter who was a senior in high school also had a part time job. The father worked two jobs and the mother did as well. The only one who didn’t have regular employment was the youngest, but she was looking for something to do to make money.
We soon discovered that in actuality, the entire family was purchasing the house. These girls weren’t just saving for a new pair shoes or another CD for their stereo. Everyone had contributed to the down-payment on the house, and everyone would contribute to the house note each month. While the payments were geared strictly to the father’s income, everyone in the family worked… for the family.
After we had finished eating, the father came and sat down with us. His daughters translated everything my husband said to him. As I sat there, a mere spectator as this meeting was going on, I marveled at the way this family worked as a unit. Everyone had a job, was in school or both. The parents both worked two jobs each. I was about to discover so much more.
As my husband finished with the delivery of the report, he asked the father how long they had been in the United States. He explained, in halting English, that they had been there about five years. He described the arduous process of applying for an American visa, and the expenses involved in bringing his family to this country. They had finally become American citizens, and he was in the process of saving enough to bring his two oldest daughters and their husbands to the United States as well.
As we concluded our business, we got up to leave. Each of the daughters hugged me, and I gently shook the mother’s hand, thanking her for her hospitality. The father followed my husband out, patting him on the shoulder, thanking him for all he had done on the inspection. My husband stopped in the carport, and asked him what all the plants in the flower pots were.
It was their vegetable garden.
He was excited about the house they were buying because it meant not only a permanent home for his family, but a permanent garden for them as well. By then I was biting my lip, determined not to give in to the emotion that swelled within. We gave our final goodbyes and crawled into the truck. My husband had not backed out of the driveway before the tears came.
I could not believe the sheer determination this family had in making their dreams come true. This man was a janitor at a hospital and a convenience store operator at night. His wife worked equally unskilled jobs. Every one of their children were full-time students, yet each contributed monetarily to the household. While the majority of the teenagers we knew were occupied with cars and dates and sports, or clothes and makeup and boys, these girls strove to help their parents in any way possible to achieve a measure of independence and ownership.
And then they had honored us with what little they had had to feed us and to make us feel like welcome guests in their home. They had been gracious beyond measure. I felt shallow and petty compared to them, and I asked God at that moment to help me have the same sense of hospitality and charity that these people had shown us.
Our job as home inspectors is to simply inspect the house and report to the client the conditions of the home. We don’t get involved with the realtors or the purchasing process. We decided to breach that boundary this one time. My husband called up the family’s realtor and explained the two major issues with the house – a roof that was in desperate need of new shingles and would not last through the next winter, and some hazardous electrical issues he had found.
She was equally touched by this family, and assured my husband that she would make sure that a new roof and the electrical repairs were negotiated into the purchase price of the home.
Weeks later we still had not received payment for the inspection, the one time we had agreed to wait until closing to get paid. (If a house doesn’t close and no purchase is made, the client sometimes feels he doesn’t owe you any money. We have a standard pay-at-the-time-of-inspection policy.) I was so afraid the sale had not gone through. It had been a special house, the right price, and exactly what the family needed. I wasn’t worried about the money. I just didn’t want them to have missed out on the house because the seller refused to address the deficiencies we had found. I dialed the realtor with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
She said she was heading for the closing right then. The sellers had balked at first, but she had stood her ground, and the buyers had a new roof and all the electrical problems had been fixed. She thanked us for taking such an interest in her clients and for looking out for their well-being.
As I hung up the phone I knew that if anyone in this world would make it, it would be that family. They not only had the guts to tough anything out, they had the ability to work at a schedule that would have most married spouses screaming at each other because there was no time to do anything else and they never saw one another.
These people reminded me of what we used to be like as a nation, before we grew soft and dependent on the government. They reminded me of what the human spirit is capable of if it would just get off its duff and quit blaming everyone else for any little trial that was faced. It showed me what could be accomplished if family would just work together, support each other, and love each other.
And it showed me that we don’t need the government to micro-manage our lives, that we’re capable of working and sustaining ourselves. This family echoed the determination and grit that made this country great, but which is so sorely lacking in its citizens today.
I’m glad to see this family in our country. I welcome their presence. I have spent a total of 3 ½ hours in their company, and they taught me so much in that short time. They were a blessing and an inspiration to me, and I pray that God will keep them and watch over them.
I hope their story will be a blessing and an inspiration to you as well.