I am almost done breastfeeding my son. He turns one tomorrow, and I dragged both kids to Michaels to pick up green icing for a homemade cactus cake, for our llama and cactus, taco themed party. My neighbor from Mexico made fun of me, because white people are more committed to having a theme, than we are to having a good time. “Just get some beer, and good food – forget the rest,” he said, laughing.
He’s not wrong, because I did go to three stores, before realizing I was overcommitted, and deciding to bake a simple cake, with cactus candles and a little green edible glitter instead. If you’ve ever been to that many stores with children under three, on public transportation, you know this should be avoided always, but when my mind is set on something, who can stop me? Shall reason and common sense be my help? No! Shall my children’s meltdowns hinder me? No! Shall the M7 at rush hour keep me from my cake? No!
I have been snuggling my babies close this week, and even when I feel at the edge of all things reasonable, I have been quicker to take a deep breath, and exercise patience. I have them, I think to myself. They are with me. They are here.
I really didn’t want to breastfeed with my second baby past the six-month marker. Dragging a pump bag to the office, on top of all my other stuff, and then trying to find an empty space for 20 minutes to pump twice a day, as well as rinsing my pump parts without an audience has been challenging. Pumping on top of feeding at home is my least favorite thing. But, I managed to go a little further than I planned, thanks to a little help from my friends, and a lot of organic baby food.
Lucas, just like Levi, managed to get a terrible fever, the week of his first birthday, and has a cold to go with it, and while I thought I would be weaning him, he has needed me more for comfort, and to get well. I find myself holding him, tears in my eyes, praying for the moms and babies, the dads and children, who are suffering trauma, and in distress, wondering if and when they will be reunited again.
The zero tolerance policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May, has caused more than 2,000 children to remain in detention centers, tender age shelters (I am weeping as I write those words) for babies and toddlers, and some have ridden buses, flown on planes across our country to foster agencies, who have federal contracts with the government of the United States. States like New York, and cities like Manhattan, were not even notified that the children were coming, until a video captured in the middle of the night was leaked, and our local government realized that 239 children were right here at home, the youngest being nine-months-old. While all of their parents are detained in Texas.
As I lean into compassion, and enter that lived reality, I think of my son, as he is right now, taken from my arms, put on a plane with strangers, and taken to a foster agency in another state, to be cared for by strangers, and then placed in a home of more strangers. Would he be cared for? What would they feed him? He’s never had formula – would it be okay for him? Would it hurt his tummy? They wouldn’t know about his blankie, or the fact that he’s teething, and needs medicine sometimes to help him sleep. They wouldn’t know what songs to sing, or books to read. They couldn’t love him like me and his dad. They don’t know him. They don’t know us. Who would soothe him as he wails for us?
We, at least up until this point, have not experienced a need to seek asylum in a neighboring nation. We have not been on the run due to war, poverty, corruption, and crime. We have not had a need to protect our babies at any cost, to make sure they live, to do anything to ensure they might inherit a greater future.
I hate the word illegals. We’ve been indoctrinated by law and order rhetoric in America, and that word enables us to dehumanize a person. An actual person, with flesh and blood, a heart and a destiny, summed down to one word: Illegal. We forget that the stranger, the foreigner among us, the immigrant with brown skin, is created in the image of God, just like us, migrating into a land we stole, and built on the backs of slaves, anyway.
What a mess we’ve made.
Perhaps we can use this gut wrenching situation to lay down our political arms, and have an honest conversation as human beings. This mess won’t change unless we do. From personal experience, change is hard, because of the sacrifice required. Change is not free; it will cost us something. But my friend, I hope if it was me and my baby boys, you would be willing to do just about anything to fix this.
I hope you would call your legislators, write emails and letters. I hope that you would donate to organizations who will work tirelessly to reunite my family. I hope that you would host a drive at your faith community, and show up for marches and protests, and get yourself into the good kind of trouble. I hope that you would vote based on evidence and facts, understanding that your vote hires an expensive person, that you pay with your tax dollars, to serve us, through the legislative process of making laws and appointing others to enact policies. I pray that you would take the time to understand how every policy breaks down to an actual person.
Finally, I would beg you not to look away, and to acknowledge that just because it is not happening to you, or affecting you, does not mean that it is not happening to others, who are created in the image of God, just like you. As Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:38-39
O man, He has told you what is good. What does the Lord ask of you but to do what is fair and to love kindness, and to walk without pride with your God? Micah 6:8
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34
How long will Facebook, CNN, and Fox News be our pastor? When will the living word come alive in us, propelling us toward love, creating within us a capacity to imagine a way forward together?
We don’t have to agree on everything to do the right thing. Whatever the issue, be it immigration, mass incarceration, our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, mass shootings, healthcare, education, gender equality, or affordable housing, we need to walk from the ends toward the middle.
Here’s what you can do today:
Review the Immigration Facts Info Sheet.
Call your legislators. (Yes, you have time for this. I hate the phone. Do it.)
Use 30 minutes you were planning to spend on social media, or the news, and instead, explore Welcoming the Stranger.
Watch this Facebook Live video, from the Justice Conference and World Relief, right outside one of the four Tent Cities, in Tornillo, Texas.
Listen to this podcast, The Controversial Jesus: Jesus and Politics.
Do not look away – the time is now for sacrifice and change. You have what it takes, and your part may be small like mine, but it is not insignificant. Our whole is greater than the sum of our parts.
I treasure you, dear friend. Persevere, and do not give up. Hope and love will sustain us. The joy of the Lord is our strength.