If you are open to discovering fascinating life stories in unanticipated places (such as a nail salon), you will find them. They will find you.

As the grandchild of immigrants who may have arrived sin papeles, I am moved by the monumental sacrifices and tireless work ethic displayed by people who arrive in the U.S. with little more than a battered suitcase and zealous aspirations.

For years, I have known Tracy, the incomparable manicurist. I interviewed her daughter as a standout Carlsbad High senior. She is now graduating from UCI so that, Tracy chuckles, “she can get a good job and support me in my old age.”

Tracy is always smiling, laughing and making wry jokes. But recently she revealed her life after coming to California from Vietnam 25 years ago. “I worked three jobs. The newspaper at 4 am. Next, 8 am all day at a factory. Then retail sales at night. I would get home at 11 pm. Cook food for the next day. Sleep two or three hours.” I asked if she caught up on rest during the weekend. She replied, “On Saturdays and Sundays I did nails.”

Tracy confided, “I was recently disparaged by someone who said right to my face that immigrants like me come here and take things from them. We show up, expect everything to be given to us, and get nice homes and fancy cars.” She snorted, “ I rent an apartment and drive an ordinary sedan. I do nails six days a week; sometimes seven.”

I assured Tracy that people like that don’t represent the best of America or majority of Americans. I hope I am right.

Having enjoyed the good fortune to get to know, highlight and become friends with people of diverse cultures and colors has taught me to celebrate the differences that make each of us unique, and reinforced my deep belief that we are more alike than we are different.

Arrive. Strive. Thrive. That’s what my grandparents did. That’s what Tracy has done. That’s what millions of immigrants who make this country great do every day.