She came to work one Friday afternoon glowing with the intensity of sunlight.
Always a smiling, happy woman, she hadn't been this ecstatic since she bought a new car, and even that glow paled in comparison to her ebullience on this special Friday.
Then, as she stepped into the house about to explode, we learned why. She flung out both arms and proclaimed, "I'm an American!"
Rarely have I heard the phrase announced with such joy and beauty.
Her name is Doris Bonilla. She has been our housekeeper for eight years, arriving at our home every Friday at exactly 1:30 p.m., after having cleaned another home earlier that same day.
This Friday was different. Knowing how involved we have become in each other's lives, she was bursting to tell us she had taken and passed the test for American citizenship and saw it as a way of tightening a bond between us.
It was a day to be shared.
Doris is a special woman. Born in El Salvador, she was brought to the United States 35 years ago as a child bride and has dreamed ever since of becoming a citizen of the country she has grown to love and call her own.
Blessed with incredible energy and a deep sense of compassion, she has supported two sons by cleaning houses and has seen them graduate from college with bachelor degrees. One has gone on to medical school and the other has joined the Los Angeles Police Department.
As if raising her own family weren't enough, Doris has taken in the three children of a sister who died two years ago, and sends money to another sister in El Salvador to help out. The extent of her generosity reaches beyond even that. She has offered many times to come to our house to help on her days off when either my wife or I have been ill. "No money," she would say. She would do it for free.
If anyone ever deserved citizenship, Doris is that person. Her joy is contagious, her pride palpable. She studied nights to learn English and worked hard to study for the test. It wasn't easy. There ought to be drums and bugles to acknowledge her accomplishment. She did it on her own.
I can still see her bustling about the house with new energy on that special Friday, a smile rarely leaving her face. The moment is wondrous. We're lucky to have her.