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What defines success?

May 1, 2023

Do you ever wonder what makes some people succeed and others fail? Often it is a simple piece of paper that makes all the difference.

I got back from a board meeting in Canada and I realized again how easy it was to have a piece of paper in my hand and be able to get on an airplane and just go to another country. A simple piece of paper made all the difference. It opens doors into a new world and new opportunities. I heard the story at the World Renew board meeting that they were helping children and their families to get their birth certificates in a country in Africa, because it was this piece of paper that would legitimize their existence and open doors for them.

Last week I received an email that I was accepted into the MA program at Fresno Pacific University.
It was a piece of paper from Germany that had stood in the way for over 30 years that caused me to doubt my abilities. Now that it has been validated, I can move forward.

The other day I had a conversation with a person working at a gas station. He is an educated man who owned his own business in another country, speaks 5 languages and has an powerful life story, yet, it is a piece of paper that does not easily translate into English that stands in the way to open his own business here.

Sometime ago I was up in Silicon Valley and helped a church think through their immigration issues and our history of border policies. A software engineer came to me afterwards admitting that he was here without ‘papers’. He was hired by a company, got his visa and worked for years here, but never renewed his visa, now he has a family but is afraid to go to the authorities to get things right in fear of deportation.

I have friends with amazing gifts, skills, talents and stories that would break your heart, that have lived in the shadow for years, because they miss a single paper that makes them able to be who they are.
MLK said “Don’t judge a man by the color of their skin but by their character.” I want to expand it: Don’t judge a person by the country of origin but by their character.
How can we help people around us get the ‘papers’ they need to thrive in this country? How do we make the process fair and attainable, not only for immigration, but for education, for Business, for life?

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