I scanned the line of children on the sidewalk waiting to be invited into the small room for breakfast. Some hid behind their mothers and fathers, others gathered with siblings around a game, but one girl noticed me looking, bravely caught my eye, and warmly smiled. I walked over and knelt before her, meeting her eye to eye. “Buenos días,” I said. “Buenos días,” she answered. “¿De dónde es?” “Guerrero.”
Of course, I thought. This line was filled with children and their families, many of them from Central America, the Mexicans often from Guerrero. These families fled inconceivable violence in their cities, arriving at the border in the hopes of claiming asylum so that they may enter the United States. They left homes that were once considered safe, no longer offering protection from danger. Instead, they traveled great distances with hope in their hearts. They were in the Holy Saturday of life, hovering between the pain of separation and the hope of resurrection.
My ability to converse with this little girl in front of me had come to an end, my knowledge of the Spanish language nearly non-existent. Instead, we reverted to communication through gestures and single words. She taught me colors and I commented on her beautiful purple Dora the Explorer backpack. Her face lit up and she began to shyly sing, her joy at feeling understood evident.
The line began to move, and I was summoned into the small room to help serve breakfast to the people. This was not the first time I had served at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, but it was the first time I had served so many children. Something had shifted in the few months since I last visited. Whereas before, KBI primarily served men, they now were caring for numerous women and children.
Very little can cause a mother to move her entire family from the safety of home, indicating these children had experienced danger I could barely imagine. Yet this little girl was singing, her safety not entirely reliant on a place, but on people: her parents. With her mother’s hand held tightly in her own, she entered each day with hopeful joy.
Not one family I met that day despaired. They banded together in their time of trial, looking towards hope, sharing love, and seeking a better life for their children. Their eyes trained on God, they offered up their sacrifices, their joys, and their gratitude in prayer before the breakfast meal was served.
What I felt in that room was love. Undeniable, indisputable love.
Sometimes I feel helpless, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do when the world is filled with the pain of so many. But if my faith has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that it is impossible to ignore the suffering of others. These families were certainly in the midst of their suffering, yet their love for one another and for God refreshed their hearts in the desert of uncertainty.
There are no others. There is only us. All of us together.
St. Teresa of Calcutta said it when she reminded us that we belong to each other. Jesus said it when he reminded the righteous man that, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:45) We already know in our hearts how important it is to care for families, reflexively offering meals during our friends’ times of suffering.
There is only us. All of us together.
When I began this post, it was because I was frustrated with everything that has happened on the United States/Mexico border. I’m frustrated about the recent agreement with Mexico to place more armed guards at their Southern border. I’m frustrated because this does nothing to help families in need, creating one more barrier to block them from finding life, and no solution to the violence that initially caused them to leave everything behind. I’m frustrated that there are so many children still in detention, separated from their parents. I am frustrated because every day matters.
This issue is complicated, as all issues are, but one thing I do understand is that if we do not support families, we will fall apart. Families are the foundation of our lives. Families are where we learn to love. Everybody deserves a chance to be with the people who love them most in a place where their lives are not in mortal danger. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
If you want to follow the stories happening at the border, follow Kino Border Initiative. Their work is wholly rooted in the gospel and evident every single day when they hospitably greet their guests with a smile and the radiating love of God. They remind me that all of us together can make a difference. We only need to show up.