Davis Gets It…Again

Annunciation House in downtown El Paso

I had Davis to myself for nearly five days over the Christmas holiday. That has to be a first.

Usually, whenever he’s home, he has friends to catch up with, numerous social engagements to attend, and at least one overnighter at a best friend’s house. But I’m not in Virginia anymore.

Here in El Paso, he had nothing on his social calendar except visiting me.

Despite my glee, I wasn’t stingy with him. I didn’t hoard his attention. I shared him with El Paso.

After all, he was the first of my intimate circle of family and friends to visit, and I was anxious to show him around. To introduce him to life at the border and expose him to the people and places that mean so much to me. I wanted to give him the full effect.

And I hoped he would understand.

On Christmas Eve, his first day, we attended the annual Las Posadas and intimate Christmas Eve Mass and dinner at Annunciation House – a hospitality house for migrants and refugees that has been operating for 40 years in downtown El Paso. Entirely run on donations and volunteers, the building is old, but it’s filled with the precious hearts and stories of those who have passed through its doors.

annunciation house bedroom
A woman prays by her bed in her assigned room at Annunciation House


This was Davis’s first Las Posadas.  He didn’t seem to mind as we walked the street, knocking on doors, singing in Spanish – a language he doesn’t know. We followed a little girl posing as Mary, a lace shawl draped around her head, accompanied by her raggedy-dressed Joseph – both of them real-life refugees.

When we gathered back at Annunciation House, he didn’t seem to mind the peeling paint and cracked walls. Or that he had to stand during the service because there weren’t enough seats. He toured the house with one of the 20-something year-old volunteers who’ve made a year-long commitment to work and live here, and he asked thoughtful questions. He listened to fellow volunteers share stories about what this place means to them. Posole-Dish-1

Then we ate a simple Christmas Eve meal of Posole, a traditional Mexican stew made with hominy, while sitting on a hard bench alongside refugees from the Congo, Guatemala, and Honduras. Davis even scrounged up the courage to practice his French with the African woman. Not knowing either English or Spanish, she had been silent until he engaged her in conversation.

The next morning at breakfast I asked what he thought about our unique Christmas Eve celebration.

Without hesitation, he said, “I can see God is present here.”

As he spoke of the volunteers’ commitment to the people, of all the “good” and the generosity he’d witnessed, my heart filled.

He’d seen what I’d wanted him to see. After only one day!

During the rest of his trip, in quiet moments, Davis asked questions about his dad. He wanted to remember the quirky aspects of David’s personality. Hear more about his father’s childhood and the early days of our marriage.

I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I became acutely aware of David’s presence in our conversations. I felt immense warmth and gratitude.

I never wanted Davis to suffer this loss at such a young age, in the middle of the most important stage of his relationship with his father.  Yet I know he is wiser because of this experience. His life is richer, his insights deeper, his compassion more genuine.

It’s what enabled him to stand in this place at the border with me and see what I see. With an awareness and understanding that comes from the heart.

Gregory Boyle, the Jesuit priest who’s worked with gang members in LA for 30 years and wrote the best seller Tattoos on the Heart, spoke about this in a recent interview with Krista Tippett. He says that “standing in the lowly place with the easily despised and the readily left out,” he finds more joy, kinship, mutuality. He’s discovered that “the measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship.”


Sometimes that kinship comes in the guise of wounds.

As one of Fr. Boyle’s homies, who’d been abused and beaten throughout his childhood, explained, “How can I help the wounded if I don’t welcome my own wounds?”

So, we have to welcome our wounds. These hurting places within us. And I think if we are not afraid to acknowledge them, and know that we are loved unconditionally in them, we will be better able to stand in that “lowly place” offering kinship to those whom society considers dismissible, disposable.

And we will see with different eyes. The eyes that saw what Davis saw in El Paso.


9 thoughts on “Davis Gets It…Again

  1. Maureen Morrell


    What a lovey retelling of your time with Davis. The compassion and thoughtfulness of our kid’s generation keeps me hopeful for our future.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. patty huffman

    As always, love the works of your pen Pauline. Your heart speaks so authentically in everything you write – so very glad your Davis was able to be with you this Christmas!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rob Morrell

    A wonderful reflection, Pauline. In the 8+ years in which I have known Davis and seen him from time to time, he has always struck me as an “old soul” – which I intend as a compliment to his maturity and empathy. I am delighted that he was able to be with you in December, and I am not surprised that he viewed your new life in El Paso with clarity and compassion. You and David have raised a good man.

    I was reminded of attending Las Posadas as a kid in downtown Los Angeles, on Olvera Street. I suppose that was the heart of the “Mexican” area, perhaps analogous to “Little Tokyo” or “Chinatown.” Las Posadas was enacted quite artfully, though even as a kid I had kind of a funny feeling watching all the brown-skinned people performing for the white people seated at their tables outside, eating the meals that had been prepared for them.

    L.A. probably had well over one million Latinos already living there by the 1950s, and I believe it still has the second-largest Spanish-speaking population of any city in the world (trailing only Mexico City). Many of these people, whose ancestors had emigrated to California from Mexico and other countries long before my Anglo parents had, were U.S. citizens, yet clearly were relegated automatically to second-class status (or worse) because of the color of their skin.

    Fast-forward sixty years, and, while much has changed, I cringe at how much of that attitude remains – and is even encouraged in our society today with its ignorant and incendiary rhetoric.

    Thank you for your work, your witness, and your welcome to these refugees and immigrants coming to our borders, looking for the same safety and opportunity that my ancestors sought. I pray that we all may overcome our fears and come to recognize our shared roots and humanity.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue Dougherty

    You have always said that Davis has the wisdom of an “old man,” and this experience sure supports that. So glad that you had that very memorable Christmas with Davis. What a gift!
    I echo Rob’s last paragraph above. Thank you, Pauline.

    Liked by 1 person

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