Immigration policy is one of great debate for America. A country founded by immigrants, and later built by more immigrants. Some today believe we should let everyone in, others believe Freedom can only spread so far. Economically there are arguments for both sides, and of course as a Democracy we hope to land in the middle for progress’ sake. As a Christian I am taught to maintain an open door policy with all whom wish to sit at the table. That moral value of compassion for one another is emphasized in my traditions both as a Christian, but also an American.
Compassion is such a strong emotion, yet we see so little of it in today’s society. It is hard for us to admit, but too many see compassion as a nuisance to their daily lives. When it is easier to just go on ignoring, why would anyone go out of their way to serve? Of course, even those of us who volunteer sometimes walk around the beggar. I have been blessed with many opportunities to show compassion, to open my table, my home and more importantly my heart. Truth is, there are opportunities every day for all of us, we just have to look for them.
I recall in college returning from a trip and sitting outside the bus depot looking around at 4 in the morning. There was a little Mexican woman standing in the cold, with arms and body shaking, it was clear that she was freezing. Something inside me encouraged me to talk to her, but as I sparked a joke, she began ranting in Spanish a cry of great fear and sadness. After gathering a few words (as she was talking so fast, and holding back tears), I could tell she did not know where she was or why. I called a friend and after some translation, we realized that she was arrested for being here illegally, though all of her paperwork was in order. After several weeks inside an immigration camp, she was dropped off at the bus station at 1 in the morning. No explanation that she was found to be here legally, or instructions of how to move forward. A kick out the door, and “here you are maam”, is all she got. With the station closed, and no one to be there for several hours, I decided to buy her breakfast.
I took her to my home and let her rest on the couch while we tried to get a hold of her family. After reaching them in New York and discovering that she had a job waiting for her, she was able to get some money from her family through western union. We got her a bus ticket and she came back to my house for a couple of hours while we waited. Finally, driving her to the Greyhound station, she looked at me when saying goodbye and called me her guardian angel. As I paused, I could feel goose bumps up and down my body. For in her eyes I could see God’s light shining down on both of us. She hugged me goodbye with a grip most loved ones do not endure. Two strangers bound together by compassion; an empowering emotion.
She called me many times after she arrived to New York, first to let me know she was ok, then later to tell me of her life and how grateful she was of me. She told me of her children in Mexico, of her family in New York. The calls grew distant, and I have not heard from her for many years, but that’s as it should be. It was a simple moment for me, but for her a saving grace for which she will never forget.
As I look back in need of encouragement at times, I remember that face as she hugged a complete stranger with the tightest hold an individual could grasp. That moment turned out to be my saving grace as well.
Compassion cannot be captured in a couple of sentences, but that memory lives on in my heart. When I question God’s purpose for me, I remember that day. I remember that he made me not shy, but sociable. I remember that I am compassionate not because he punishes me, but because he loves me and all of his children. When I think of Immigration Policies America should adopt, I remember that we are a land of the free, not because we deny strangers, but rather we embrace them; with love and compassion. So as we move forward on Immigration Reform, let us remember how we got here. Thanksgiving did not start out as a day of feasting, but of compassion, and mutual understanding. It is our given right as Free People, to allow that freedom to spread, not only into other countries, but within ourselves. We must first be willing to spread it here on our own land, before we can truly hand it to others.
Lastly, to the woman who is with her family and friends in New York, I pray that you may forever enjoy our liberty and freedom. I pray that we may all remember that this country was found not on elitist ideals, but compassion, love, and understanding.