I’m scared, the young mom tells me in Spanish. “Miedo.” It’s one of the new words I’ve learned.
“I know,” I say, managing to fumble my way through my limited Spanish. Of course she’s scared, I tell her. It’s been a difficult journey. She’s in a new country. Everything is new and uncertain. And she doesn’t speak English.
This evening she will board a bus with her four-year-old son bound for California. And she has no idea what to expect or how she will communicate.
Many mothers have come through our doors here at Nazareth Hall after being processed by ICE. But she is the first to look into my eyes and share her fears. Her vulnerability moves me.
Later that afternoon her darling little son shows off the GAP jacket he’s chosen from the donated clothing room. With its puffy shoulders and bright peach color, it’s obviously for a girl. I try to tell him this. He continues to smile at me, as pleased as can be with his selection. His face is so innocent, I want to cry.
I remember my own son at 4, how one night at bedtime he had a surprising request. Davis wanted my reassurance that I wouldn’t let any bad guys break into our house and hurt him. He wanted me to protect him from the scary people in the world. It broke my heart to tell Davis the truth. I couldn’t promise him that. But I could promise that I would do whatever I could to stop anyone from hurting him and I’d always love him. No matter what. He could count on that.
I wonder about this mom. Has her son asked for such reassurance? Has she been able to protect him on this journey? Certainly she worries about him, just as I did — and still do — about Davis.
I pull a picture of Davis from my wallet. This is my son, I tell her. She says she sees me in his face. That makes me smile.
Wanting to offer her something more, I tell her to have a safe journey, to go with God. “Vaya con Dios.”
She shows me the rosary hanging from her neck. She tells me she knows God is with her. God has blessed her on this journey. Then she says something about God blessing her through meeting me. Her voice is strong and confident. Her faith intense. Her words humbling. Yet I can bet that any one day in her life has been much harder than my worst day.
Later I find her sitting in a hard folding chair set up in the hallway, awaiting her ride, who won’t be here for another hour. Her face is calm, not looking at anything or anyone in particular. I’m sure she’s silently praying.
Wanting to join her, but not intrude, I take a seat a couple of chairs away. I pray for her journey. For safety for her and her son. For her faith to continue to be strong. Then I quietly return to my work.
When the volunteer driver arrives to take them to the bus station, there’s a sudden flurry of activity, of greetings and goodbyes. We hug and I can feel her heart. They are whisked out the door. I watch them go. And offer another silent prayer. A prayer from one mother to another.