The New Girl
Have you ever been the new kid on the block? The new one at a job or in a classroom, where everyone already knew each other?
I have. But I want to tell the story of an 8-year old girl who is the new kid this year in her school.
Let's call her Ari. She's 8 going on 25. Ari giggles when playing with my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Sadie. She uses words like "sorted" and "convenience", making adults raise their brows.
In short, she's a treasure. Who wouldn't like her?
Yet, the evening after the first night of school found her in tears. She didn't understand the teachers' expectations, couldn't figure out the lunch keypad for payment, and, despite being ahead of the other kids in academics, couldn't figure out the dynamics of the classroom work.
No one welcomed her or held her hand.
No one helped her figure out the lunch keypad or told her it was okay - the school always gives kids a meal when their parents forget to load lunch money onto their account.
No one gave her a tour or told her how the business of getting things done in the classroom worked.
Yet, this is just a snapshot of what life can feel like for a new immigrant.
Imagine these issues on a bigger scale.
Do you apply for a social security number or a bank account first?
How do you access funds from overseas in the US?
What happens if one of the family gets sick when you can't get decent health insurance as a non-resident alien? (I know this population is eligible for Affordable Care Act plans, but those plans can be prohibitively expensive in some states or only offer catastrophic coverage).
In the world of Divided, there are no immigrants to the Federated Republic of America. There are no new girls, as Supreme Commander Martin does not allow moving between cities or areas inside the cities.
Everyone grows up knowing everyone else.
What do we miss out on when we never have to be the new girl? Or when we never serve as the welcoming committee for the new girl?
We miss out on learning about others; understanding someone else's culture; trying new foods or ways of thinking. We miss out on the richness of human experience that differs from our own. We miss out on layers of personal growth.
Yet, so many people don't want to welcome the new girl.
For one - the new girl stretches us beyond our comfort zone. The new girl makes us question how we've always done things to see how things could be different.
In the Underground, I throw my cast of characters into a space none of them have experience in. And that's a good thing. Having to learn about each other tests their preconceived ideas and assumptions. And this questioning causes them to yearn for more for their nation.
Could we do the same IRL?
Could we stretch beyond our normal borders to embrace the new girls and boys around us?
Could we challenge ourselves to welcome the new girls and boys in our communities in a way which not only helps them adjust to life in the USA, but helps us experience a more color-filled community?
I think we can. And if we don't, we could end up in the world of Divided.