(written July 6, posted July 7) It’s hotter than you can imagine. I am sitting in the little casita where I am staying; Abuelito Jesse is chillin in his recliner, resting his eyes with Mariachi tunes playing. My pick up truck is parked in the front yard. There are parts of this trip that leave me feeling like I might be on a movie set... Soon, I will pack up hot dogs, apples, oranges, bananas, hot dogs, chips, granola bars, and water and head to the bus station in Brownsville. Also, toothbrushes, shoe laces, coloring books, little jars of Play-Doh for kiddos who will be on the bus, literally for days. Team Brownsville (a wonderful organization if are looking to give - https://www.teambrownsville.org) provides 1-2 meals daily both in the bus station for people who have exited detention as well as across the bridge in Matamoros where there are lots of people waiting to cross the bridge. I don’t have my passport with me, so have been urged not to cross.
I went to the bus station last night to get the lay of the land for serving dinner before I volunteered to prepare and serve tonight. The scene is quite the same: families, mostly mothers and children. Arriving dead tired, dirty and hungry. Last night, one 14-year-old boy was clearly quite sick, and he was wearing a mask. I talked to three families, all from Honduras. All mom’s with their kiddos. An incredibly enchanting 12-year-old girl named Dixie-Nicole. She basically followed me around until I sat down to talk to her and her mom, Berta. I was there for awhile because I lent my phone to another mom who had not had a chance to talk to the family she was joining in Atlanta. I cajoled Berta and Dixie-Nicole into practicing “Hello, my name is….” Their hesitant voices and big smiles were so sweet; I am silly not to have recorded them, but at least I got a photo. Which Dixie-Nicole tagged herself in when I posted to FB. This mom and daughter duo are headed to Houston.
Not sure if people want to know more about experiences in detention centers, but these families say much of what I have heard before: incredibly crowded, no chance to bathe, very cold, the food is terrible. The family with the sick boy was in for five days; that is the longest I have heard, but Berta told me there were people she met in detention who had been in for more than a month.
Maria, the mom who is on her way to Atlanta and borrowed my phone, was lovely and alive - helping others, seemingly relaxed. She and I communicated pretty well. She talked on the phone for 20 minutes or so. When she hung up, she was ashen. I asked if she was ok; she told me the whole story…which I got slices of. She left her husband and 10-month-old son in Honduras because her life was in danger (pretty sure about that part). Then, there is a big concern about whether she (or her husband) has a valid reason for seeking asylum. This squares with what El Pastor has explained to me. People can seek asylum for 4 reasons: persecution because of sex, race, creed, or because of sexual violence perpetrated by the government. (Again - anyone can correct me on the details if I am not getting this right.) And the people who are coming now are fleeing violence from gangs. Indeed their lives are in danger, but the government is not the perpetrator. It is political asylum - not just asylum from anyone who is out to get you. Maria told me: every step of this journey is hard and dangerous. She started crying a bit. We hugged; I got her sister’s number in Atlanta. I plan to see her when I get to Atlanta the week of July 15. Agree with me that she is beautiful:
I learned something about myself which isn’t pretty. I feel more comfortable approaching more attractive people. This is a rotten thing to recognize. The mom of the sick boy was missing her front teeth and was clearly less educated than the other two mothers I was talking to. I had a hard time connecting to her. I did go get Nyquil and cough drops for her boy. (And then was terrified this morning that he could have been allergic to the medicine - which is something I didn’t ask!) So: give me courage to drop that bias. I am ashamed of it.
One of the oddly wonderful twists - and there are some every day: there is a group called Acupuncturists Beyond Borders. Of course there is! They came Friday night, and crossed the bridge to provide care and support to the people in Matamoros waiting to cross. They had a support dog with them, and pulled wagons full of chairs and tables for them to care for people.
Lovelovelovelove. Did you all know about this? Sarah McLaughlin singing St. Francis' prayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
Dios te bendiga - and all of us. Every last one of us.