I woke up to their wide eyes.
“Did you see the news?” they asked in Spanish
“The gangs have raided houses again…they came in with guns and lots of men and forced the families out of their houses in the middle of the city. Some of my family lives close to there.”
Wait, again? I thought. This has happened before and no one does anything? What about the police? How can you work hard at your job, buy a nice house with your family, and whenever the gangs decide, they can just take it away?
I had so many questions, but I shouldn't have been surprised. The paper was full of this graphic news every day, soaked in blood and injustice.
But I was only there for a visit. I was safe… because I'm American; because I can stay in a neighborhood with 24 hour security.
This is REALITY for many who live in Central America. Hear it from someone living there.
There is little rest or payoff for your hard work. Gangs run rampant and families fear for their children.
Imagine laying in bed at night and wondering when they will come in with machetes and guns, thinking about how you can go from middle class to homeless within minutes.
So you escape. You run with your family to a place that maybe you can rest, so that you can work hard and support them. You long to be a citizen, but that takes many years and you may not live that long.
So you come and you work. Their government doesn't want you there, but they still give you a tax ID number. So you pay into social security you will never benefit from, and work a job for less than average and are filled with joy. You sleep at night in peace.
You have another child, who is a US Citizen because of where they are born. They go to school and speak English.
Then, there is a new fear.
America doesn't want you here, just like your government who never seemed to care.
You hear that they are knocking on doors and pulling over people who look like you. So you begin to sleep in fear again.
And eventually they come to your door and you're sent to a prison in Louisiana. Your wife comes home to an empty house. Wondering how she will support the family, and when her time will come.
Your kids have panic attacks at school when you are 5 minutes late, because no one is too young for this reality, and any day they could become an orphan.
And one day your wife is taken too, but not your American-born kids. They come home to an empty house, terrified. But they know the plan… raise each other. Stick together.
Whatever your side of the debate, this is reality. It’s happening right here in Memphis.
Maybe you think these people deserve this.
But what about all the actual humans involved? What about all the complexities and exceptions? What about their children?
How can those of us who grew up in safe homes with parents have any idea?
Politics are messy and that isn’t even what this is about. This is about people.
We, as Americans, have a lot of decisions to make.
We, as the Church, have a lot of decisions to make.
What will we do with those left behind?
Will we cover our eyes? Will we tell them they deserve it? Will we welcome them, love them, and care for them?
We have a choice.
Read more about what is happening.
In light of recent events, it is very clear that we are not “fine.”
There is deep brokenness, naivety, disunity, and injustice in our country and in our city.
I feel this desperate need to just do something. I’ve prayed, talked, read and repeated the process over and over again.
I know that because of my ethnicity, most of what is happening in our country is nearly impossible for me to comprehend.
I am trying to listen to stories and tell stories over and over again because the problems in our world are so much more human than they are political.
I pray that we will see people before statistics,
beating hearts before policies,
and that we will use compassion before judgement.
I don't know what exactly this will look like. However, I hope that through stories, we will see the complexity of issues that may seem far removed from our everyday lives. I hope that we will begin to think before we judge. I hope that we will show grace to ourselves and others as we seek to learn how others feel.