31 March, 2009

in the parking lot of home depot.

i am contemplative as of late.i am wondering about the impact i am leaving, if any, on this beautiful world of ours.

i am reading the autobiography of dorthy day, the catholic nun who served the severely poor of new york. she wasn't always a christian but came to faith after long struggle and rebellion.

she wrote about being arrested while protesting for suffrage. she spent 30 days in jail, the first 10 in the delirium from a hunger strike. together they stood, against immense pressure, force feeding and solitary confinement of individuals, to demand the right to not be treated like animals in prison.

i have a lot of perspectives changed recently. on sunday the couple i am staying with and i went to home depot. all across the parking lot were day labors, men who were willing to work for a day wages doing almost anything. until now, i have to admit, i have had very little sympathy for them. i assumed them to be in the states illegally, a drain on the system, someone who makes it harder for people who want to migrate legally. but looking at a group of five men playing a game on the ground to pass the endless hours, i started to think about what their life must be like. i made a comment to the wife of the couple, who said a lot of their wives work cleaning homes.

so they left everything in the country of their origin, their family, community, language, culture, etc. to come to a place where they would be forced to work the lowest jobs our society has to offer because that is "better" than whatever they left behind. they left their comfort behind for a "dream" that most americans would not touch with a ten foot pole.

and yet, they are the "lucky" ones - they weren't trafficked to pick produce, their wives weren't taken to be prostituted along the border... but still they sit, waiting for work...

part of me realizes that their difficult circumstance does not negate the illegal action they took to get into the country (smuggling is not trafficking, though it can become that once the person is detained against their will. until that point both sides are performing an illegal act), they are still in need of compassion, love and kindness. they are still to be protected by the same laws to keep the unscrupulous from exploiting and harming them, they need God's love and i am to treat and view them as a creation of God, because every man is.

so what does that look like? should i employ them for a day? i don't know. but i could take them food or clothing, invite them to dinner, give them resources to use if they were being exploited, i could help their kids (or them) learn english, if they wanted i could help them become a documented immigrant. i can see them as people. i can treat them with dignity and respect. i can look at them as an individual with a wife and children and an amazing hope for their future. i can treat them like i would want to be.

too often it's too easy to look at those on the margins, the homeless, the immigrant, the pregnant teenager, the released prisoner, the people who does not speak english well, and treat them as subhuman. it's easy to look at the things about them we don't understand, or that make us uncomfortable, and jump to tremendously false conclusions. it's easy to sit in my home, less than 3 miles from that home depot, and never think about the uncertainty they face. they can become the reason i miss my old nw. but we are not called to live there - we are called to live in community, fellowship, live with them...

ultimately, writing is the easy part, putting it into practice is much more difficult.

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