I Lucky Everything; Along with a manicure, a reminder of how immigrants revitalize our nation

On May 1, Pat Buchanan, erstwhile presidential candidate, was on the “Today Show” talking about Jean-Marie La Pen, the extreme right-wing French leader who captured 17 percent of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election.

Buchanan opined that Le Pen did so well because of his contention that immigrants were destroying the French identity and culture. Buchanan took much the same stance in his book, “The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization.”

I turned off Buchanan and his exclusionary views and went to keep my 10 a.m. appointment for a manicure. The shop I frequent is owned and staffed by Vietnamese immigrants. When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by the owner and hugged by my manicurist, Linh Huynh.

Linh is a pretty, slim woman of 51, always tastefully dressed. As she began to soak my fingers in a small bowl, she also began to talk in her strongly accented English. I’d been in Florida for the winter, and she said that she had missed me.

Linh has been in the United States with her husband, a bakery worker, for about six years. Her oldest son preceded the couple to the United States, arriving more than 20 years ago to live with an uncle. Linh’s son graduated from college, got a job as a computer engineer and then sponsored his parents’ move. He bought the town house where they all live together.

At the time Linh’s two other children, a 13-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son, remained with Linh’s mother in Vietnam. Linh, who visits Vietnam whenever she can afford it, often had spoken to me about bringing these two children to the States, but as of last December that hadn’t happened.

On this morning, as Linh began to file my nails, she told me that she had good news. Her two children had joined her and now were living with the family. She said they loved the United States. Her daughter was attending public school, and her son would be attending Montgomery College and work part time.

Then Linh said she had more good news. She had bought a secondhand car even though her oldest son had refused to help her buy it. He feared for her safety and told her he would drive her wherever she needed to go. But because he worked, this was “not convenient,” Linh said. A client had told her where to find a good used car, and she got “a good deal.”

At first she was uncomfortable at the wheel, but after two months of driving, she was more confident. Summing up all these developments, Linh said, “I lucky everything.”

Now Linh wants to take a day off from work and volunteer somewhere. Linh is studying along with her daughter to improve her English.

She is thankful to the United States for her life here and wants to give something back. But the shop owner told Linh she can’t spare her yet. Linh also wants to bring her mother to the United States but isn’t sure that she can afford to pay an 81-year-old’s health insurance.

Linh says, “I want to enjoy life, be happy” — but not now. Now is the time to work and support her children, so she works six days a week at this nail shop and a seventh day at another.

While I listened to Linh, I had tears in my eyes, thinking about what this lovely woman, with her scant knowledge of English and her limited education, had accomplished in a few short years in this country. As an immigrant myself, I was glad to be reminded of how revitalizing the flow of immigrants continues to be for this country.

When my manicure was finished, Linh and I hugged goodbye. As I left the shop, I found myself thinking about Pat Buchanan, and I wondered: Is Linh Huynh the kind of person he believes is imperiling our country and civilization by coming to live in the United States?