I cling to my own child while reading horror stories about other children.
Children who weren’t fortunate enough to be born in this country.
To be born white.
To be born middle class.
To be born privileged.
Sometimes I cry at my desk at work.
Sometimes I cry in the shower.
I often cry in the car.
Then I’m overcome with guilt for my tears.
Who the hell am I to cry? I’m lucky. I’m untouched by these perils. My daughter is safe.
But the tears flow like clear, hot lava and my soul burns.
I’ve shared resources online.
I’ve called my elected representatives.
But I keep coming back to the same question, “What have I really done?” or rather, “What can I even really do?”
What can you do when you see a picture of a father and his young child face down, drowned in a river as they searched for a better life? A life I freely lead through no right other than circumstance and chance. First, I stopped to notice…
I noticed that the child was tucked under his shirt and that made me think about his actions before wading into the waters. How he probably comforted her, told her that by sharing daddy’s shirt she would stay close to him… near his heart. I thought about how scared he must have been but how tucking his daughter into his own shirt must have given him some assurance that they’d be together. That they’d be okay.
I noticed how, even in death, the child clung to her father — a little elbow crooked around his neck. That little arm signified a deep trust. Trust that daddy was doing everything he could. That daddy would keep her safe. My own daughter has clung to me in a similar way, but never through a coursing river as we journeyed towards safety, towards peace, towards a chance of life.
I couldn’t stop thinking about their last moments. What he said. What the child did. What I was doing in my own life as they journeyed through literal hell on earth. I bet I was peacefully sleeping, my own child safe in the room down the hall where I can watch the rise and fall of her chest on a monitor.
Next, I wanted to do something, but what?
Curse the very earth I walk upon and all the horrors it spews upon humanity?
I’ve done those things. Hell, I’m doing them as I type this. But what do they accomplish? How do they stop the horror? They don’t undue the torment on those young souls. They don’t bring back the dead. They don’t rain down justice on the perpetrators.
I say again — I am overcome.
I ran from faith for a long time. I never truly stopped having it, but I quit embracing it. Embracing it felt like an acceptance of all the nasty things that have sadly become associated with faith. With hatred. With judgment. With pride. With arrogance. I couldn’t bring myself to embrace those values so I convinced myself that I didn’t need faith in my life on a daily basis.
But as I watch the horrors unfold around me I feel moved to reevaluate my position. As I stared at that picture of that sweet drown baby girl and her father, I remember…
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
I see what the mountain is now. It isn’t tests or high school crushes, it’s hell on earth. It’s children being separated from their families and left without basic provisions and care. It’s families stuck in war zones at the mercy of people in power who think of nothing else. It’s mothers who watch their children die of disease or hunger when resources existed to help — but they just couldn’t get past enemy lines. It’s unarmed black men being gunned down in their own cars in front of babies. It’s addicts who can’t afford health care and high maternal mortality rates for people of color. And yes, it is a child clinging to her father, even in death, in a river on the border of the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world, one which also happens to so boldly proclaim: “In God We Trust.”
That’s a mountain. It’s vast. It seems impossible to move. It’s hard to overcome.
But we have to and if that means taking it pebble by pebble, well give me damn shovel! I’ll rejoice in it. I’ll kiss the blisters on my hand as they form!
You see, I’ve suddenly realized that “overcome” has another meaning… a powerful one. One that means I do not have to succumb to but rather, one that hints at a power I possess. One we all do. Bessy refers in her book to our “preaching-with-our-feet-and-voices-and-hands-money-lives.” We have those and we can chose to wield them! Instead of feeling overcome by the mountain, we can decide that by deed, word, action, and faith we will instead, overcome it.
It won’t happen all at once.
There will be more horrific stories and photos that will send us reeling and looking for answers. And it will be okay to seek them. We can cry. We can mourn. We can even ask ourselves why are we here — blessed, happy secure — while others are not. It’s okay. But we cannot get so bogged down in despair that we forget that we’ve been enabled with a power to overcome. Our safety and security in this world comes with a solemn duty to those trapped by the mountains:
A duty to pick up a shovel and get to work.
We’ve got mountains to overcome.
Here are some resources you can use to help move this mountain. Please grab a shovel — we’ve got work to do:
DONATE to one of these organizations:
- Raices Texas is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families.
- The Project Corazon Travel Fund sends volunteer lawyers and law students to the front lines of this humanitarian crisis so they can provide free legal services to those seeking asylum.
- KIND or the Kids in Need of Defense has been leading advocacy efforts for kids in immigration detention.
- United We Dream, the American Civil Liberties Union, Mijente, Immigrant Families Together and the Immigrant Justice Corps are coordinating advocacy and services at a national level.
- Local organizations providing legal aid include the New Sanctuary Coalition in New York, Las Americas in El Paso, Americans for Immigrant Justice in Florida and the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund in Colorado.
- Pay bail for parents who have been separated from their children so they can be reunited with their children.
- Use your frequent flyer miles to help get more attorneys to the border to provide pro bono immigration services to those being detained.
- Sign online petitions to show elected officials that you are not okay with this humanitarian crisis occurring anywhere, much less on our own soil. Don’t miss this one from the ACLU that will be sent to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
- Use a spare room or property to host a refugee in crisis.
- It’s not okay to bury your head in the sand and it is your duty to confront those you love who choose to do so. Read, listen or watch the news. I suggest NPR, PBS Newshour, and the BBC for solid reporting.
- Learn the facts about family separation so that you can wield truth to those who are misinformed.
- Contact your elected officials today, tomorrow, and every single day about this crisis. Urge them to support the following legislation at the national level:
- S. 3036 – Keep Families Together Act
- H.R. 5950 & S. 2937 – The HELP Separated Children Act
- H.R. 2043 & S. 2468 – Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2018
- H.R. 6193 – The Central America Family Protection and Reunification Act
- The Central American Women and Children Protection Act of 2019 – introduced in May of 2019 by Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
- Find events near you so that you can speak out and show up in person.
- Write an op-ed to your local paper detailing why you support ending this humanitarian crisis.
- You may not be able to hit the voting box for at least another 7-months or so, but make a plan now to only support political candidates who have concrete plans to end family separations and espouse productive and humanitarian methods of ending the immigration crisis in our country and reuniting families and children.