They say that patience is a virtue. Is forgiveness one as well?
As we sat under the shade of a metal canopy talking to two border patrol agents, the hot Texas sun assaulted our faces. The two border patrol agents who greeted us had last names that were of Latino decent. They were kind, eloquent and informative. Yet their words hung heavy on my heart. “Pride for the job” that they felt, and “a calling” to serve their country. The more I thought about it, I angrier I got.
Meanwhile, back at home in Denver, I had a student who recently experienced the deportation of her grandmother. The matriarch of the family, her grandmother had been in the country for nearly 25 years taking care of her family.
It was all boiling over and I didn’t know how to turn these feelings into meaningful advocacy. After speaking with another board member, who also works in education, he reminded me that forgiveness is the only way to stay sane. He said, “I have to forgive all the time, every day.”
As we met with Rafael and his family who experienced deportation, and Fr. Peter and Sister Betty who have tirelessly fought to remember all those who have lost their lives to the violence and tragedy that has plagued Juarez for years- my empty tank slowly began filling. All of the faces, the stories, the statistics- they are real humans and they cry real tears. They also experience real joy and have real families, and they forgive. So I must forgive as well. Every day, I will forgive because Carmen who lost her daughter, and Dr. Mendoza who opened a free clinic find forgiveness and love to keep doing what they do. If I want to see real change I must forgive, and be patient. I must share the stories of the incredible people I’ve met so that their journeys have not been made in vain. I must believe that there is a place for the border patrol agents who are doing their job to enforce laws and protect our country, but I also believe that there is a place for dialogue around a broken system that needs fixing in order for awareness, connection and forgiveness to begin.
Kara Schmitt (pictured far right) was part of CVV 2 (1996-97), and worked at Urban Peak. She is now a Social worker, mother of Mason and Molly and wife of Dave. She brings so many gifts and such great energy to our Board of Directors. Having come here from the University of Texas, Kara made the wise decision to stay here and now lives in Evergreen!
“The power of storytelling is exactly this: to bridge the gaps where everything else has crumbled.” – Paulo Coelho
Since returning home from El Paso/ Juarez, I have found myself thinking less about immigration in the political context that the media seems to demand these days, and much more time meditating upon the stories that we were fortunate to hear. It is in what I heard from Fr. Bob, Joe, Oscar, Shilani, Arjelia, Rafael, Kari, Dr. Mendoza, Bertha, Estella, Sister Betty, Fr. Peter, & Carmen that I was challenged to think about the many perspectives along the border. I am moved to hold their stories sacred, but not to keep them to myself. This is my challenge- to bear witness to the lessons each of them had to offer.
I choose to believe that when we take the time to generously listen to one another, that is where we find truth. I recognize this often means hearing stories that are painful, overwhelming, and uncomfortable. It also means hearing stories of hope, faith and perseverance.
Each individual shared their gospel as we spent time listening, asking questions and breaking bread together. I found myself wrestling with my own discomfort at times throughout the weekend as we were generously hosted and individuals unceasingly gave of themselves, all the while asking nothing of me. They invited us in, they received us with love and without question.
What am I being asked to do? How is God calling me to respond?
Every volunteer who has gone before us and the volunteers that will continue to make this pilgrimage will be blessed by their own unique encounters and experiences. They will hear stories and they will have their own questions to reflect upon.
I am sincerely grateful for the time to be companions on the journey with my fellow board members. In sharing this powerful experience together, we were also gifted the opportunity to share our own stories with one another. The reflection, prayer and ongoing desire to take action based on what we learned will continue to fuel our discussions throughout the coming months.
As Pope Francis noted this weekend, “”Walls that enclose some and banish others. Walled citizens, terrified on one side, excluded, exiled, and still more terrified on the other. Is that the life that our Father God wants for their children? Dear brothers and sisters — all walls fall. All of them. Do not be fooled.””
Where will we find the opportunities to create bridges in this space? For me it will always begin with stories.
And patience. And forgiveness. #IamVincent (ed.)
Nikki Murillo (Colorado Vincentian Volunteers ’15) has continued her work with children at Denver Kids, after having worked as a CVVolunteer at Annunciation school. As you can read, Nikki is a passionate young woman who has turned that passion toward Social Work. She will soon begin work on her MSW through Colorado State University. She helps the youth in her church to connect with developing countries by making annual pilgrimages to Honduras. The CVV Board of Directors is blessed to have her share wonderful insights as a new Board member. She accompanied other Board members on a recent pilgrimage of learning at the Border between El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico.