As I walked through little league football practices, an ultimate frisbee tournament and family picnics Monday night, I overheard a parent say to another, "What do you think an immigration vigil is?.....I feel like I should be at it." It was uncanny to hear my own thoughts spoken out loud......by a passing stranger no less. I'm learning through experience this fall that to "see and to listen" means to be ready....for anything. My car pulled into the Colonial Beach driveway a little after 9pm on Sunday night, after 13 some hours on the road due to a major accident on I-70 East.... which became a parking lot for the better part of an hour. By the time I made it past the accident, creeping along the shoulder, I had seen 5 tow trucks and an RV camper was still on its side covering both lanes. Monday morning I got up, a little more stiff than usual, began unpacking, caught up on social media.....and saw an event for an immigration vigil to be held at Old Mill Park in Fredericksburg that evening, hosted by Virginia Organizing.
I made it out the door that evening a little late, but still somehow arrived early for the crowd milling around a candle labyrinth. A echoey battery powered speaker perched on a folding table brought everyone together for a series of speakers; a pastor, a professor, a doctor, and an immigrant, all who spoke words of inspiration, challenge, and shared parts of their own stories. The diverse crowd reflected a large range of ages and backgrounds. English was translated into Spanish and vice versa to allow everyone there to participate and listen.....the mood was reflective, with hope and joy held in tension with sadness at the overwhelming needs.
Afterwards, we picked up candles from the labyrinth and signs that were all various forms of "keep families together," and headed up to the street outside the park where we stood as cars passed. We walked up to another, slightly busier street before heading back to rescue our cars before the gates of the park closed at 8pm. I'm pretty sure I spent most of the evening with a slightly perplexed look on my face....sometimes I am not a quick processor. :o)
As the last of the candles were extinguished and the group began to dwindle I spent a few moments speaking with Aide, who had shared her own immigration story, coming to America as a teenager with her mother and sister. Her father had come two years before, and she spoke of leaving her family, her home, everything she had known. I thanked her for sharing and after I explained awkwardly about my upcoming trip, I asked, "What is the one question you wish people would ask you?" She paused for a long time with a furrowed brow before she said, "I wish people would ask me why I came. Because it is different for everyone....and now that I think of it, I don't know that I have ever asked my father, who came here first, why he came."
The theme of dreams was interwoven into the night.....we are dreamers after all, and no one wants to diminish the dream that a person can live a safe life with their family. No one willingly leaves a home that is safe or a community that allows them to make enough money to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. The most challenging thought of the night for myself was that the unaccompanied minors at our border are not running TO the United States as much as they are running AWAY FROM the violence and poverty of their homeland. I cannot imagine the evil, the fear, the threat that makes staying with your family impossible. Lord, in Your mercy.
There is another story to share that has come from Monday night, a ukulele ditty that led to God opening my eyes a little wider to the people around me. I hope to share that next week......this season of preparation for my trip is beautiful, hard, and spirit filled. Amen.