Monday, December 10, 2012


If you remember, Morris and I go back a few years - - I just haven’t written about him for awhile.  I think the most recent entry I had about him was not long after he was resettled to the US, had his cochlear implant surgery and I visited him in Boise.  (I thought I’d written about him since then, because I visited him again maybe 3 or so years ago, not long after he moved to Philadelphia.  I know I had intended to write about him, even had a picture of him with his car and a nice picture of us together, but I didn’t see the update in the blog archives . . . oh well, maybe that update is still just in my head. )

He’s been on quite a journey.  If you check out that link to the previous entry, then there’s a link to an entry before that, and another from there, and so on till you get to the first time I wrote about him.  He’s been in the US for a little over 5 years, and on the morning of September 24, 2012, in Philadelphia, Morris was one of 66 people from 32 countries to become a US citizen.

I had visited Morris a couple of times earlier this year.  I took a bus ride up and back one Sunday in early March so I could finally see him again (especially now that we’re both on the east coast), meet his girlfriend, and also meet his son, who had just been born on Christmas day, 2011.   Then this past August, I again went and spent a weekend with them.  We got caught up on each other’s lives, and I got to know his girlfriend and son better.  Morris was practicing for his citizenship interview that was coming up – we looked up videos of sample interviews online so he could have an idea of what to expect. (I have pictures from these visits, but this posting has enough pictures below.) 

A few days later he contacted me, excited to tell me he had a successful citizenship interview, and to let me know the date that he’d be sworn in as a citizen.  I promised I’d come for the ceremony.  His girlfriend works every day except Sunday, so Morris said I might be the only family who can go with him.  I was honored. 

Morris is the one with the hat on

Taking the citizenship oath (he's with the hat)

watching the others get their citizenship

in the middle with the hat, so happy

It was a moving ceremony, especially since I knew someone being sworn in.  I’d known Morris from when he was on the camp and the physical education teacher for the deaf school - - and my karate instructor.  At that time, we had to communicate mostly by writing everything down to each other.  I visited him regularly when he was in the hospital with a tube coming out of his chest for over a month, and then again during the 6 month period following his discharge, when he was back on the camp, could barely walk to the door of his room and needed to sit up to sleep at night because the fluid in his chest was too much for him to be able to lay down and still breathe.   We’ve stayed close while he’s been on the next leg of his journey to where he currently is now, living in the States, with his girlfriend and a son, able to talk face-to-face with people (thanks to the cochlear implant), and, as of 24 Sept, to  being a US citizen.

Morris' girlfriend, Vikky, and son, Mohammed

 It was a beautiful day; Morris said it was the happiest day of his life.   His girlfriend got out of work that morning to go to the ceremony with their son (I wasn’t the only “family”).  Afterwards, Morris went to register for his passport and Social Security number.  He was already volunteering for the Obama campaign and had made promises to help drive people to vote.  He was looking forward to being able to take part in and vote in the election.  He was so happy and excited to responsibly play his role as a citizen.

Anyway - I like these pictures and had to include so many of them.  We took these outside ones next to his car, where he received his first gift upon leaving the courthouse - - a parking ticket.  The ceremony had started later than expected, and once started we weren't able to leave, and didn't want to leave, to add coins to the meter - - - oh well.  He then received his second gift - - having the parking ticket disappear before he saw it and be taken care of so as not to spoil his day.

We’ve talked about what’s next for him, but it’s complicated.  He would love to go to the University or do some other studies - - and he could probably even get student loans at this time.  But, he currently receives disability benefits (resulting from the surgeries he’s had).  That  money, with what his girlfriend earns, gives them an OK life for raising their son.  If he starts to work without higher education, then he wouldn’t make enough money – and would lose his disability benefits.  If he takes loans and goes to school, there’s the risk he still may not get a job after graduation – but then he’d also have student loans to pay.  So – there are things to think about – he’s in a catch-22 kind of situation when it comes to somehow trying to move ahead.

But, in the meantime . . . he’s a US citizen,  and extremely happy and proud to be one.


At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Loretta said...

I usually scoff patriotic phrases like "land of opportunity" and anything referring to freedom, but Morris' story is an example of how the US is a great country. And now it's that much greater because we have a citizen like Morris.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger MJ said...

Wow, Steve, I'm so happy to see this about Morris--I feel like I know him after hearing about him for so long and all he's gone through. Please tell him congratulations from us on attaining his citizenship---he looks so very proud of having been able to do it. I know how serious things were for him while he was in Africa and all you did for him when you were there too and it's so great to see that he was able to finally achieve one of his dreams.


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