The Writers Voice
Favourite Literary Website
I Give You America
Here is an old
postage stamp, a 4-cent variety from 1957. It was
given to me at a Scout meeting long ago. Back then,
that's all it took to mail a letter. A lot of
things have changed since then - some things
haven't. On the stamp is a picture of the American
Flag, the old one with just 48 stars. Even the flag
has changed, but not what it stands for.
The story of this stamp begins with a man, born
about 1880, in a part of the mid eastern world we
today know as Syria. His name was Ali Mohamed
Hammid. When he was a young man, he left his family
and everything he knew to come to the United
States. He was a good man, a devout Muslim, and he
wanted a life with freedom. He worked for many
years as a coal miner.
He raised a
large family including four sons named Mustaffa,
Hassan, Yusef, and Abdula. The sons went by the
Americanized versions of their names: Sam, Skip,
Joe and Burton. During World War II, all four of
them joined the Army; two fought in Europe, the
other two in the Pacific.
When I was a young boy, we lived next door to Mr.
Hammid. By then he was an old man and no longer
worked in the mines. He spent his days quietly at
home, working in the garden or just sitting on the
back porch. He never learned to read or write, and
only knew a few words of English. Because he was
illiterate, he was never allowed to become an
American citizen; but he was probably the most
patriotic man I have ever known. Every morning, he
would raise the American Flag in his yard, and
every evening he would reverently take it down,
fold it and put it away. Sometimes I would get up
early and go over to help him. We would sit on the
porch and he would tell me stories about the Statue
of Liberty in New York harbor that was his first
glimpse of America.
His son Yusef was my Scout Leader. Mr. Hammid
sometimes came to our Scout meetings. He
would sit quietly in the back of the room and smile
as we went through our Scouting activities. He
especially liked our flag ceremonies. One night
after a meeting, he came up to me and in his
outstretched hand was this stamp. He offered it to
me and in broken English he said, "I give to you
America. Enjoy it ... love it ... protect it. Have
many sons and pass it on to them."
I looked up at my Leader, not sure what to say or
do. The other Scouts called him by his American
name - either Joe, or Mr. Hyman. I just called him
Dad. He smiled and said, "Take it son, it's the
greatest gift you'll ever receive." I took the
stamp from my Grandfather's hand.
I've carried it with me since then. Through times
of war and times of peace the flag on this stamp
has always reminded me of just what being an
American is all about. My Grandfather taught me
many things. From him I learned that you can't
judge a person's patriotism by where they're from
or how they pronounce their name - that the color
of their skin or the religion they practice are
unimportant. I learned that freedom is something
that must be cherished and nurtured, if it is to be
successfully passed on to the next generation.
Since the horrific events of 9/11, we have all seen
many flags; on buildings, along the streets, in
sports stadiums, and on television. Some were
proudly waving high, some were solemnly flying at
half-mast, and some were reverently draped over
coffins. They all remind us of our rights and
responsibilities as Americans. As you look at the
Flag on this stamp, I want to leave you with the
same words that set my course many years ago: I
give you America. Enjoy it...love it...protect it.
And pass it on to your children.
Critique this work
Click on the book to leave a comment about this work