One Person’s Downsizing Becomes a New Citizen’s Treasure

“People can be kind to each other, and this is who we are.”

New citizen Jaques Campher outside the federal courthouse in Columbus, OhioCourtesy of Jaques Campher and the Washington Post

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His Fourth of July tie had served Marc Johnson well. While cleaning out his closet, he decided to put it on eBay and sold it quickly. In a follow-up message, the buyer told him why he wanted the patriotic tie—for his US citizenship ceremony.

Johnson was floored. “I was like…I can’t charge him for this,” he told the Washington Post. “I thought about it for a second and just decided to send him the tie gratis…I wanted him to have the tie with my congratulations on becoming a citizen.”

Later, Johnson got the photograph: A smiling Jaques Campher, a South African native, wearing the tie after his ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. Next to Campher is his American wife, Lindsay Krasinski, and their daughter, Alice.

Campher told the Post that he sent the photo to thank Johnson for the gift of the tie, which he said he will treasure for years. Krasinski said her husband was so moved by the gesture “he got weepy when he told me about it.”

Campher gave Johnson permission to put the photo on social media, where thousands of people have liked it. Johnson said the overwhelmingly positive response may be because the turnover of the tie “reminds us people can be kind to each other, and this is who we are.” The gesture of a gift from one American to a newcomer reflects something else about the nation, he added. “With very few exceptions, everybody in this country is an immigrant in one way or another, by ancestry if nothing else.”

Here are some other Recharge stories to get you through the week.

  • Standing together as one. After a fire closed the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan mosque in New York, a synagogue a block away offered its space for Friday prayers. Nearly 600 people showed up, and Central Synagogue Rabbi Stephanie Kolin could hardly contain her joy. “This is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen in my entire life,” Kolin said. Following her statements of solidarity, the Muslim congregation blessed the synagogue and the rabbi. (NowThis News)
  • Stemming a shortage. Francois Agwala was a teacher and a principal in his native Congo. Raquel Molina Fernández was an instructor for a decade in Spain. They’re among scores of foreign-born teachers in Maine who are taking part in a new program that will help prepare and certify them to teach in the state. The reasons are clear, says Portland’s superintendent, Xavier Botana. Students of color make up almost half of the public school district’s population, and more than a quarter are multilingual. But the teaching staff is 97 percent white and overwhelmingly speak English at home. Districts need teachers regardless—and fewer US-born workers are choosing the profession. The Maine program, based on similar efforts in Chicago and Portland, Oregon, also combats “brain waste”—when skills of immigrants aren’t transferred to new nations because of language or certification issues. Molina Fernández, who moved to the United States last year from Spain, says the program will help new Maine residents contribute to their communities. It shows “that there’s support for our skills and our preparation.” (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Everybody wins. A Philadelphia nonprofit, Philabundance, and eastern Pennsylvania farmers have teamed up to produce cheese for the area’s hungry. The new initiative—the nonprofit also distributes surplus fruit and other goods from supermarkets to the poor—turns milk that would expire into something that lasts much longer. “Instead of going bad in 21 days, you have 6 months to a year,” said Kait Bowdler of Philabundance. What’s the group eyeing next? Turning skim milk left over in the butter-making process into spoonable or drinkable yogurt. (Philadelphia Citizen)

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