As I walked to my car this morning I passed by a long line of immigrants from Mexico waiting to enter the Chapel door of the Cathedral where I go to church. It was silent. I passed somber looking faces & made eye contact with as many people as I could, smiling respectfully, not knowing what was going on. I saw Father Geaney, the Rector of the Cathedral, at the end of the sidewalk, his blue cap visible from a distance. He & I organized together earlier this week, I wrote about that in my last blog post. I was happy to see him. As we exchanged greetings I asked him what was going on & he explained that he & the Cathedral had brought in government officials from Mexico to help people get identification the police would accept & I felt comfort again. My church was doing something to help the state of affairs our country is in. Our nation of immigrants. One of the things I love about the Cathedral of Saint Andrew is that the Diocese offers immigration legal services to help support people that are in need through immigration. I mentioned to Father G that I was on my way to organize with a couple from Mexico that speaks primarily Spanish to support Bethany Christian Services' Refugee Program. The couple are fostercare parents that take in refugee fostercare children. I donated a gift certificate for my organizing services to their fostercare parent appreciation night earlier this year. I told Father G I loved that what the Cathedral was doing for the immigrants was happening as I passed by on my way to this couple. It's not much that I'm doing but I'm proud to support two organizations that are supporting refugees & immigrants. Especially right now.
I speak a little Spanish but not enough to get through an organizing appointment so there was an interpreter assigned to help me through it, her name is Giovanna. Giovanna works for Bethany Christian Services & is from South America, Chile, to be exact. So here we were, the great granddaughter of an Italian immigrant, an immigrant from Mexico & an immigrant from Chile all working together in a cocina (kitchen). I couldn't think of a more meaningful organizing appointment to have right now. I knew that the universal language of organizing would help me communicate with my client today & it did. We laughed as we worked through the space, shared stories & got to know one another all while the homeowner made decisions on what to keep & get rid of based on my guiding practice of keeping what you Necesitar (Need), Utilizar (Use) y Amor (Love). She told me about how much she & her husband work & how there's very little time to go back through things. I explained with the help of Giovanna that that's very common & what I hear from all of my clients. Schedules are maxed out making it hard to keep up. That's why I'm in business, to help support people through busy schedules & life transitions. She smiled. I loved seeing the different foods, talking about how to maximize storage & getting to meet their bilingual parrot, Poncho. Their outdoor fiesta space was great & the flowers in bloom in her garden were gorgeous. I was very happy organizing with their family today.
As Giovanna & I talked on break we talked about the migrant children that are without their families right now in detention centers & how they aren't being moved into fostercare homes right away. We talked about how sad we were to think of little ones without warm hugs or their parents. I don't know the situation of each individual affected by what's happening right now but I do know that children, as do all people, deserve humane treatment. 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since early May. I understand our laws on illegal immigration but what I don't understand is how that many children, as young as 5, can be pulled away from their parents instead of remaining with them. Our fostercare system is already overwhelmed. Our support for refugee children from all over the world is in need of more support. Why not allow families to stay together with supervision? I couldn't answer this question on our 20 minute break & I still can't tonight.
As our organizing appointment continued I got to meet the refugee fostercare teen that is staying with the family, he has a great smile & is clearly a hardworker, mowing the lawn for his family & helping out when his fostercare mom had questions about her cell phone. I learned that in Chile, where Giovanna is from, they say chao instead of adios which is reserved for when you are saying goodbye forever. For example, at a gravesite to a loved one. I told them that when I'm helping my clients let go of unwanted belongings I often exclaim "Adios" as we throw something in the trash forever. I had no idea that in Chile that was the correct use of the word. I also learned, when I found a heads up penny & said it was a penny from heaven & that someone must be thinking of my client, that that's what they say in Mexico when a spider drops down from the ceiling, that someone is visiting you from heaven. Not in Chile. There they say that a spider going down means your money is flowing away & if the spider is going up it means your money is rising. We talked about how different cultures have a different way of seeing things, of cooking, of using spices. We also talked about how universal it is to feel as though there isn't enough time, that there's always so much to do & that what we need right now is to support one another. We got almost the entire kitchen done in the 4 hours I was there, the photos show our progress at just over the half way mark. I heard from both women that they learned a lot & I was happy to hear such a nice compliment.
As I drove away looking at the beautiful red roses blooming & waiving chao (not adios) to Giovanna as she drove away too I thought about the children again that are waiting to be placed in fostercare homes along the border. I thought about what their parents must have been hoping for as they crossed the border. I thought about how I wish there was something more I can do. I realized that almost all of the work I had done this week I had done as an in-kind donation. I realized that when I started my business almost 6 years ago I said, very often, that if I ever make it big I would organize for free for those who couldn't afford my services. Well, I haven't made it big but I am donating my organizing time already. Why wait to help others? Why not help now? I may not be in a place where I can organize for free all of the time or support in ways that my heart would really like to but I'm doing what I can where I can. Hearing "Gracias" today with such a warm smile at the end of my appointment was enough. I might not be able to help the kiddos along the border waiting to hear what happened to their parents but I'm trying to help some parents that are helping refugee kids already here. That did in fact fill me with happiness. I hope that you find a way to reach out to people from other cultures, reach back to learn about your own immigrant background & move forward in a way that can help this nation be what JFK wrote about in A Nation of Immigrants.
“The interaction of disparate cultures, the vehemence of the ideals that led the immigrants here, the opportunity offered by a new life, all gave America a flavor and a character that make it as unmistakable and as remarkable to people today as it was to Alexis de Tocqueville in the early part of the nineteenth century.” ― John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants