My 90-something aunt told me that, as a young daughter of successful Irish, Rhode Island farmers with a large house and plenty to eat, life during the Depression started to seem unfair. She was one of eight children, but uncles and aunts and cousins from Ireland kept showing up on the doorstep, and my grandparents kept taking them in.
One night, when she tried to go to bed and found two or three cousins sleeping crosswise in every bed — and someone she didn’t even recognize on the couch — she angrily searched for her mother, finding her in the kitchen making dough for the next day’s bread. After my aunt complained about the sleeping situation, her mother wiped her hands on her apron, pulled my aunt close and said, “Now Rita, when there’s room in the heart, there’s room at the hearth.”
This past presidential election showed me that we’re still the same people who welcomed these Irish immigrants and my French grandparents to this great land when we voted loudly and clearly that, for the needy as well as the not-so-needy, there’s still room in our hearts and at our hearth.
Michael J. Conway, Miami