After attending a concert of Viennese music at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Fla. I noticed an old man in the foyer, circling in three-quarter time. “It makes me so happy, that music!” he said when he stopped near me. “I came from Vienna.”
“You miss your homeland?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “I love America. You know why? It was 1921 I came, alone, on a boat, to Baltimore. I stood on the dock, so afraid, waiting for my sponsors to ‘claim’ me. Suddenly coming toward me is a big man in a policeman’s uniform. My heart pounds, and I fumble for papers. Then he smiles. ‘Can I help you?’ he says. No threats, no commands, just ‘Can I help you?’ Do you know what that meant to me? A country where a policeman says, ‘Can I help you?’
“And not only that man, but so many others, so many times saying, ‘Can I help you?’ Yes, I love America, my can-I-help-you country:”
He danced away, and I moved on, too, silently thinking him.
Reader’s Digest, September, 1980, page 89