On Children at the Border

Yesterday, I had the privilege to listen to Krista Tippett, host of NPR’s On Being, interview the (self-described “morose”) author, television and print journalist, Richard Rodriguez. Their conversation covered a lot of ground but part of it covered our current immigration crisis. Rodriguez sees this “problem” with very different eyes. The problem is here  and not in the scores of people who are making their way to our borders. The land of opportunity has so many people in it who feel the need to escape this terrific country that they fuel a drug industry that in turns allows thugs to take over countries to our south and send people – especially children – looking for a better life. Where do they look? The land of opportunity, of course.

I think that is a fascinating way of looking at it. Its a tragic comedy in many ways and one in which Rodriguez also pointed out was being played out with the voice of the Church being strangely silent.

That silence troubled me most of the day yesterday. I wondered why I hadn’t said more. I wondered why my church hadn’t said more and I even thought, “I think I know more people who would be upset that I was listening to a gay man suggest to the church that we could do more than there are people who are upset that we are expediting the return of children to places of death.”  I prayed a lot about it yesterday and today and the following came to me:

Father of all people everywhere, bless the new Americans who come in year by year from foreign lands. Help them in their loneliness to find friends, to get work and to be happy. May they feel that America is their country.

Help us, as people from all countries, to live together in this great world-nation. May we forget all difference in color and language and work for the future of our land, seeking to make it a home of freedom and brotherhood. Help us be more considerate of these immigrants, remembering that they may have more to give to American than we have. May we never speak disrespectfully of them, but treat them as our brothers and work with them for a greater America.

Now, I say these words “came” to me, but they are not my own. They are the words of Robert Bartlett found in the hymnal The New Hymnal for American Youth, copyrighted in 1930 by The Century Company.

I picked this hymnal up to look at it to see just how “dated” the hymns and prayers would be for our day and age. God laughed. I got the joke too. Granted the language is a bit more masculine than I would like but the words of that prayer are haunting. These children of God showing up on our borders are not a problem to be solved! They are our future brothers and sisters in faith and future patriots of this nation.

That’s apparently how it used to be so it makes me wonder about the terrific “conservative” voices I hear today saying we should send everyone back as quickly as possible: Just what are we conserving here? The American Dream or our slice of the pie.

 

Random Fact Number 7

The very first bike I remember riding on a regular basis was a hand me down two wheeler equipped with a chain that stayed off of it as much as it stayed on it.  I think I used that bike more as a two wheel coaster on our driveway and into the neighbors drive. When a gang of neighborhood boys would gather in the Fall, we would pile some leaves up over a ledge that existed at the very bottom of our driveway and then take turns running that chainless bike over the hill and into the pile of leaves.  If any bones were broken in the process…well, I don’t remember them.

I moved from that bike to a skateboard – one of the thin variety – that I used to gain as much speed going downhill as possible.  With the help of our 8th grade math teacher, an unknowing parent who marked off the distance of our speed course in their car, and several people watching at corners and intersections, we set up our own downhill speed course from the driveway of the Graney’s home on Bluestone Road, around Chestnut Circle (beside the Mt. Hope High School football field) and around to and uphill section of Bluestone that headed towards our house.  Three or four of us took turns making the trip and timing one another.  We took the times and distance to our teacher and he shook his head and told us that we definitely needed to stop.  We were approaching fifty miles an hour on that course with absolutely no safety gear.

We quit.

Eventually, I saved up enough paper route money and yard cutting money to buy a brand new ten speed bike that I could ride around the streets of Mt. Hope.  I can remember the many times that bike took me from my family’s home to the home I had found in the local community theater.  I can remember short trips around town for various errands.  But most of all, I just remember getting on that bike and riding.  I would ride until I forgot that I was the shortest guy in my class.  I would ride until I forgot the number of times people called me names.  I would just ride.

Eventually, I learned that distance cycling was an Olympic Sport and I began to dream.  No.  I couldn’t officially train.  But I could dream and those dream fueled many a trip in Fayette County.

One day, what I thought would be my ticket to finding some training arrived with a bike race being held in Fayette County.  The twenty six miles seemed like nothing to me – I did that amount on a regular basis.  So I went to the race, got my number, learned the course, lined up and took off.

I was fine for the first mile or two and then I began counting the number of cyclist I could see in front of me and the number that kept passing me.  At one particular hill on the course, I remember getting off my bike and pushing and wondering if I shouldn’t just quit.  But I finished the race.  No where close to first…but not far from last.

When we loaded the bike up to go home and someone asked how the day was, I simply said, “Okay.”  I knew it was the end of a dream but I also knew that at that age, I had plenty more dreams I could reach for.  No, I would never be an Olympic cyclist, but I would always be a dreamer.

The streets of Mt. Hope, WV were no match for my bright yellow ten speed.  I could circle the town in no time flat, often times passing cards on downhill sections of the main street.  (I guess I didn’t realize that I was probably speeding at the time.)