Recognize this familiar lyric from the Beatles’ Abbey Road album?
I’ve been silently singing that one line for the past week. It showed up around the time Pres. Trump called our situation at the border “a humanitarian crisis.” I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.
I didn’t listen to his speech. I knew it would be filled with inaccuracies, exaggerations, and worse. So I stayed away. But I understand he used the word “crisis” at least six times. I also know that he called the situation at our border a crisis of our nation’s “heart and soul.”
Crisis – the word means “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.” Its synonym is “disaster” – one of Trump’s favorite words.
I’d have to agree with him on this one – our nation’s heart and soul are in danger. But not for the reasons he implied.
We are in danger of losing our ability to recognize ourselves in one another. And, more troubling, we are in danger of losing our ability to trust love over fear.
Living at the border, I have a clearer picture of what that means.
I also have a better understanding of what living in “crisis” really means. Every day I have opportunities to witness how the migrant families we accompany live with intense difficulties, trouble, or danger, and, most of the time, with all three.
Every day I have opportunities to witness how these people, along with our volunteers, choose to trust love over fear.
It’s a beautiful opportunity, to watch the power of love unfold, as we care for those in crisis and listen to their troubling stories.
In the process, my life and the lives of my fellow volunteers have been changed.
Here are some examples of what, to me, define crisis.
A Honduran minister came to us with his 10-year-old son. He was worried about being sent back because, in Honduras, he had started a successful clinic for drug addicts and, as a result, his son’s life had been threatened. The gangs felt he was taking business away from them by rehabilitating people.
An El Salvadoran woman had carried her handicapped son across Mexico while her 8-year-old son held the hand of her 4-year-old. She fled because her husband had been killed and she was afraid that if she, too, were murdered, her children would end up on the street, and her handicapped son would be seen as useless and killed outright.
As a business owner, one mother from Guatemala constantly experienced extortion. When it got tough for her to meet the gang’s demands, they threatened to return and take her daughter. She and her daughter left before they could fulfill that promise.
One man, headed to his sister’s in Los Angeles with his daughter, couldn’t sleep and needed help calming his nerves. Turns out he had experienced the murder of five family members, one of whom had been shot in the face.
A 14-year-old boy from Honduras had walked for weeks with his father to arrive at the border. When a volunteer noticed his swollen foot and ankle, she asked him to remove his shoe and sock. She was shocked to find very little skin remained on his toes and the bottom of his foot. He had a fungal infection superimposed with a bacterial infection, yet he had not complained.
A Guatemalan mother arrived with two teenaged sons; a third, the eldest, had been killed by a gang, causing her to flee in fear of what might happen to her other two. She shared how she fears bringing them up in this new country, how they might be influenced by this culture. Does this sound like a woman who’s glad she left home and country?
She’s not alone. Many migrants tell us of the beauty of their country. Despite the violence, they miss home.
“Once there was a way to get back home…”
That’s another line from that Beatles’ tune. It causes me to wonder, what if this is what it’s all about after all? Showing each other love to help us get back home.
In the end, isn’t it really all about how well you’ve learned to go beyond your fears? And how much love you’ve offered?
I’m here to tell you there is hope, even in the midst of this “crisis.”