Recently I began a project that highlights "The New Americans" — immigrants who, as American citizens, exemplify the best there is about America and the values we hold dear.
An outstanding example is Mr. Mike Timen of North Hollywood, famous in his homeland for his remarkable accomplishments in the highly competitive and demanding world of Greco-Roman Wrestling. This man has drive and determination. These qualities, plus his remarkable physical prowess, won him the Ukrainian.National Championship.
Here is a man who came to America from Russia with a work ethic second to none, a variety of important skills, and a willingness to acquire as many skills as possible. What makes Timen such an exemplary American is that he embodies all the qualities, attributes and attitudes that are so vital to our country's character.
His hard work and savvy business acumen has never prevented him from showing forth true generosity and compassion for the less fortunate, the stranger, traveler, or those who have recently arrived in their new home — America. I've seen him take into his personal residence, as short term guests, those who otherwise would be on the street, giving them the necessary stability to re-focus and set a course for self-sufficiency. Timen has, with his own hands, served home made food to those who had no home and no food, asking nothing in return. Having lived through hard times, Timen understands the difference between those who have their hands out, and those who could use a helping hand and an encouraging word.
So impressed was I with Mike Timen, that when I recently returned to Los Angeles, I stopped by to see the man some might describe as a robust masculine Mother Teresa, a Russian Jew with the compassion of Jesus, the integrity of Moses, and the diplomacy of Muhammad. In these tough economic times, I figured Timen would be devoting his energy to helping even more people than usual. Instead, I found him preoccupied and a bit downhearted.
"What's the problem, Mike," I asked. He handed me a sheaf of papers documenting a never ending cycle of repetitive inspections — inspections that required Timen make physical alterations to his little hostel, get more permits, pay more fees. That would be perfectly reasonable if it were not for one blatantly obvious fact: They were trying to play him for a fool. He was actually issued a notice ddemanding that he repair a pot hole in Tajunga Avenue—a city street. That was the one that hurt the most – the message being, "we think you are so stupid that we can charge you fines and fees for anything we can make up." Happily, Timen knew the difference between a major public thoroughfare and his personal property. He won that round, but the cycle of repeated inspections and more suspect fees continues.
Hardship in Russia didn't break his spirit. Religious persecution didn't lesson his resolve. Thrilled and proud to be an American, he told me last year that America is the greatest country in the world, and Los Angeles is the best pl
ace to live in all the USA. Today, he must face the tragic realization that while he loved Los Angeles, it never loved him back. He has learned that the home of the brave doesn't pin medals on street corner humanitarians, it sends them never ending notices of fees, fines, and deadlines — even for things that are not within his sphere of influence.