In a mom and pop store recently, a man who had relocated from Chuuk state in the Federated States of Micronesia asked the woman at the cash register if he could pay 50 cents for a bunch of overripe bananas dotted with brown spots on the outside but possibly still edible on the inside.
The cashier told the man, who later introduced himself only as Bundy, that he could have the bananas for free. The man was taken aback – he wasn't used to kindness, he said.
One of our colleagues from The Guam Daily Post saw this interaction and chimed in, asking the man if he needed a job.
There was something about how the man had offered 50 cents for the bananas that got the attention of our colleague. He wasn't begging for the food; he offered to buy it for a meager price so he could eat.
When the man realized he just got a possible job referral after being given a bunch of bananas he wanted to pay for, this man asked a question to our colleague and the cashier: "Why are you nice to me? I'm not used to people who are nice ... I am from Chuuk."
It is heartbreaking to hear that this man, who wanted to get a stable job – even if it's an entry-level position – had hit a wall in his search for better income simply because of where he came from, and simply because, as he described it, a few bad apples from Chuuk get drunk and "cause trouble."
Within our private sector, many people from Chuuk and other parts of the FSM do the hard, dirty jobs many of us Guam residents don't ever want to do. Mopping floors and washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen, or cleaning rooms and making beds at hotels, or sorting trash are among the jobs our regional migrants do – and many of them do so proudly because they understand it's an honest job that provides them and their families with the beginnings of a new and prosperous life.
A lack of regard for the dignity of our regional brothers and sisters is what prompted Clark Graham, a former Peace Corps volunteer and native of Iowa who has lived in Chuuk state since 1966, to send a letter to The Guam Daily Post.
Graham wrote that over the decades he has lived in Chuuk, he has seen immigrants from Chuuk and other states in the Federated States of Micronesia leave home in search of better economic opportunities in the United States, but some of them go through various forms of discrimination. Graham wrote that his son was discriminated against in Hawaii while attending college there.
Graham also was expressing his sentiment over the apparent exploitation of workers from the FSM who were recruited for jobs at a meat processing factory in Iowa. A similar report of labor abuses of Micronesians had been documented in another part of Iowa years ago.
Graham raised a point that under the U.S. Compact of Free Association with the FSM, which allows FSM migrants to relocate to Guam and other parts of the United States, these citizens are entitled to work and live with dignity.
You're right, Graham. We all need to do better at making our regional brothers and sisters feel at home here on Guam or in other parts of the United States. We hope your voice will add to the others who, like the cashier, show acts of kindness in everyday situations.