Hi Wonderful Humans,
Will do a description of my day yesterday, and share with you some of the stories I gathered from the families I talked to. I spoke to families in the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen and the Good Neighbor Settlement House respite center in Brownsville. Brave and beautiful people from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, navigating unbelievable hurdles and dangers. The openness of their faces, their willingness to chat is so disarming - and lovely.
But for a moment: Many of you are telling me I am doing something great. Or that it is brave. Or that it is a sacrifice. All I can say is that it just doesn't feel like that at all. I hope I don't sound like a ninny, but it is 100% a gift to be here. 100%. I am soaking up knowledge, awareness, gratitude, love, pain, courage, disorientation - all of it.
I had a great conversation with buenisima amiga Sarah Driscoll the other day. In describing some of the good I am seeing, she said "It goes to show you that there is good in the world." True, true AND: good is not passive. It does't happen; we make it. You, every day. Good happens when we create good. At the end of something, don’t have the conclusion that there is good in the world. Or bad in the world. Be in the situation to make it good. Brene Brown (and Theodore Roosevelt) would say "get into the arena." It's fine if the arena is your home, your neighborhood, the next time you let someone go in front of you in a long line at the grocery store.
I am dosing on episodes of On Being (thank you to Kiame for introducing me, and to Andy for it becoming an indirect conversation between us). Two things that stood out recently from two different interviews: it’s the micro actions in our every day that make up the whole. (Maria Popova). And Richard Rohr - “I pray for one good humiliation a day.” I love this! We should all pray for one good humiliation a day. Anything that keeps us all on the same playing field, and vulnerable enough to keep making offerings of goodness.
I am here for many reasons, but the most specific reason is Bryan Stevenson’s call to “get proximate.” I initially interpreted this as needing to be proximate in order to be effective at solving problems. I am not the only one. An article in Fortune summarizes Stevenson's call for proximity similarly: "...Bryan Stevenson, the law professor, anti-death-penalty advocate and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, called on a rapt crowd of executives to 'find ways to get proximate to the poor and vulnerable,' the better to solve social problems." (https://fortune.com/2018/06/26/bryan-stevenson-ceo-initiative/)
That, my friends, is privilege. Because I think what Stevenson is really saying - and what I figured out by hanging out with recent immigrant kids at Somerville High School and the families here - is that proximity is for our own humanity. It's not to fix other people. It is for the transformation of each of us. And, when we are transformed in this way, we have the experience of being one family. One family. Who would leave their family members to a life of desperation? None of us. Proximity gives the opportunity to affirm, grapple with, and begin to be blessed by the mystery of all of us being one.
The reality - and expansiveness - of being one family began to be revealed to me after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. My learning from that book (and from all the work I did around that book - some of you know that I basically tasked the entire city of Bozeman to read that book) was that the whole world is our family. The whole world is our family. All children are our children. We are family to one another. And, thus, we must care for and will be cared for by one another. It just is. It doesn’t have to do with duty. For me, it very much has to do with God, though I invite those of us who don’t believe to lean into the notion of family. A mystical, all encompassing family. If you look for it, it will be there.
Being in a family also means you show up - to feed, clothe, house, play with, teach, celebrate - with each other. So, the next person who asks for a sandwich or a dollar, imagine that person as a sibling. And go to the sandwich shop and buy a sandwich. Ask first if she eats meat or avoids pork, because this food needs to feed her soul as much as her body. Put food into people’s hands, and if you have time, sit and eat with them. They might decline to want to be with you, and that is ok. There are a million reasons why that might not be their choice. But consider shaking hands, introducing yourself, asking if they have children or siblings, ask their birthday, ask if they are from the city you are in. Honestly, these conversations are poetry. If you have anger, tension, fear, anxiety in your heart, a piece of it will melt when you do this. If you have no time (because I know people are crazy busy), buy a 6-pack of socks the next time you are at Target and put a pair of socks in your jacket pocket each day. Give socks to the person who asks for a sandwich. Shake his hand, look in his eye, say hello.
I venture to say that most people who read this blog (all 12 of you! haha) are opposed to "the wall." I am trying to think of the wall in more metaphorical ways. What walls do I have to my own understanding, to empathy? Where do I let my "knowledge" (which is white, upper middle class, Americana, female knowing) impose walls that I think at the moment are immovable?
I am down here just doing every day. I promise, there is nothing brave about it. It's just where I happen to be in this glorious, and my wonderfully blessed life. I am a sister who happens to be here, and I am not alone. You are brothers and sisters in other places at this moment.
People I have worked with have heard me say many times that there is a quote from a Billy Joel song that motivates me for new beginnings. The quote is actually very sad: "Life is a series of hellos and good-byes. Now it's time for a good-bye again." And to me, this is a call to show up for the hellos. Show up in a big way; open your heart. Listen, laugh, embrace. Be alive for the hellos. It makes a hell of a difference.
Gracias a dios y mucho amor a todos,