Associate Clare Bain and her daughter recently traveled to the Texas border last month to work with the immigrants there. We volunteered at a center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas. The immigrants we saw had been processed and released by ICE, many with ankle bracelets to track them. At the center, they were counseled one at a time, to receive advice and support, and a packet explaining that they didn’t speak English. Many of them had children with them, so I think they were recent migrants. We saw a large group from Honduras, along with many other countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Cuba.
While the adults were being counseled, the children were fed. We gave them chicken noodle soup, bread (cut up hot dog buns) and bananas. We also had lemonade and water. I fed some of the children who were too little to eat the soup by themselves, or were intimidated by the whole ordeal. Some of them didn’t like the bread, so I showed them how to dip it in the soup first. That was a winner! I asked one tiny, talkative boy” to sing a song. He sang “Feliz Cumpleaños” at the top of his voice, and others joined in. It was a moment of joy for all of us.
After the adults were counseled, they came into the other room and ate lunch. After that, they were given a number, and then stood in line with their children to receive clothing, (we had sorted clothing donations all morning) and then use the shower.
This went on all day and evening. We went home in the afternoon for a late lunch, and returned at 7:30 pm with cold Coke and Sprite we had bought for them. It was very hot there, and the immigrants and volunteers were thrilled to have the drinks. I heard that somebody donated an air conditioner, and that will be a big relief when that is installed. We saw temperatures of 110 degrees.
At 11:00 pm the people were transported to a Basilica, where they spent the night.
I was touched by my interaction with the immigrants. They are parents, with children, looking for a safe place to live, in a country where their children can thrive. They are our children, our families, our brothers and sisters! The Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to care for one another, especially the least among us!
We stayed with the beautiful family of two of our parishioners. They left Mexico because there was violence right next to their home. Luckily, they had papers. In 2010, they and their three daughters, took only their clothing and a truck, and left a ranch, a house, all their belongings behind. The mother said that Mexico was like Syria with constant gunfire.
The welcome we experienced from this family touched our hearts. They gave up so much, and built a new life and a beautiful home that they shared lovingly with us. They volunteer with Catholic charities regularly. They reminded me of the popular t shirt that says “ Kindness is everything.”
I felt called to go to the border, and everything fell into place as I had a place to stay, and guides for this journey.
When I told my daughter, Elizabeth what I was doing, she wanted to come with me. She said, “I’m so tired of being angry and scared, I just want to do something to help.”
Reflecting on this, I think many of us are angry and scared, and feel so helpless. I have learned this week that we just do what we can. I have decided I don’t want live my life being against things, I want to be for things! I am for families staying together, feeding the hungry, praying for those in need, hospitality, and the power of kindness. As it says in my host family’s kitchen, “fe, familia, amigos.” Truly, kindness is everything.