Sunday, May 22, 2011

Motivational Statement

I just finished my motivational statement for the Americorps application, to be completed under 3000 characters. So, it is brief, but I think it captures why I am committed to the things I am.

I've spent my life doing community service in one form or another. My parents had me involved with various service projects from an early age, participating in the CROP Walk, buying animals for HEIFER for holidays instead of traditional gifts, saving my pennies in a Unicef bank. For me, there have been two particular transformative moments in taking ownership of these habits and lifestyle choices that my parents taught me early on: the 30 Hour Famine my senior year of high school, and my homebuilding trip to Mexico my sophomore year of college.

I had participated in the 30 Hour Famine a couple years prior to my senior year, but it was my senior year that we watched a video showing human aid workers delivering needed food, water, and medical supplies to those in desperate need. I watched that video, and something clicked. At that moment, spending a life working to alleviate the poverty of those in need, a life working to change the systems that put people in those situations, seemed the most fulfilling and meaningful life.

I tried to put that mentality to work in college, volunteering in a variety of capacities until my sophomore year I was able to join a coalition of 9 Yamhill County churches that yearly drive down to the Tijuana area of Mexico to build homes with Amor Ministries. I learned a lot about myself on that trip—I had the unique opportunity to join with 70 people I barely knew, and could redefine and reinvent myself. I worked so hard on that trip, and tried so hard to keep a positive attitude, that it became reality. More importantly, I saw poverty face to face for the first time, the kind of poverty that is around every corner in the U.S., but is pushed out of sight and out of mind by our culture.

I think when one sees that poverty, confronts that poverty face to face, with real people and real stories, one simply cannot help but act. There is no other option. For me, it is both a moral obligation and a obligation of faith. One thing is certain though: my life cannot look the same as it did with the knowledge that there are people who are suffering, who are not given the same opportunities and resources as I was. It is now about justice.

Over the past year I have worked as a full-time volunteer through the Presbyterian Church USA. My horizons keep expanding, the world keeps growing bigger, the problems more complex. And my sense of justice, my internal demand for equality, only continues to expand. Perhaps it is a blessing, perhaps a curse. Regardless, it is my motivation.

Mother Theresa said, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Despite my awareness of the magnitude and gravity of the problems that surround us, I am desperately trying to live in that belief. I cannot change things by myself, but I can never underestimate the power one person can have on another person's life.

Borderlinks Trip

I apologize for the near-monthlong break between posts....I've had so much running through my mind lately that the time to digest and write has been somewhat few and far between.

I had the opportunity the first weekend of May to be a part of a Borderlinks delegation, a participant on the trips that my roommates Ali and Stevie routinely lead as part of their jobs here in Tucson. Borderlinks strives to educate about the border through experience and conversation, relying on the participant to push themselves, to ask questions, to learn through the experience. I want to share a few of my writings from the weekend.

One of those most powerful experiences was watching Operation Streamline, a required courtroom appearance for migrants picked up by border patrol to plead guilty to the misdemeanor of "crossing the border without going through a legal entry point." If migrants believe they have an actual case for an immigration judge, they will go through a different court system. But for these individuals, about 75 the day we were there, there is only one answer to all the questions asked: "Si. Yes."
They each wore chains around their wrists and their ankles, with an additional chain holding those together. Every movement was marked with the sound of bondage. An as they were called up in groups of 6 to plead guilty, swept through the legal system in a solid hour and a half, I have to this the justice?

on all sides
we look at them
pity in our eyes
but that's still the power card
just another part of the lie
they look at us
lost, alone, abandoned....defeated.
Friends or foes?
Every face in America
must seem hard and bitter.

People in power mill around
smiling, chatting
flaunting the fact that they aren't
seated, cuffed in two places,
unable to move without the
jingling of chains haunting every movement

what drove them to try
such a dangerous, difficult, STUPID task?
they look healthy, capable
just like me
their eyes tell their stories
some sad, humiliated, defeated
others defiant, proud
some even twinkle
and for those
I have hope.

Do they really know what is going on?
Is the the idea of justice they are getting?
Maybe they'll find out Arizona isn't all that great anyways
now that they're here
but that is desperation for you
no choices
you have to act
without thought or regard for what could happen

I feel so much anger
but I'm not sure at who
is it purposeful?
Does it help?
Does it DO anything?
No. Definitely not.
But this is an outrage.
I want to stand up and yell it!
If everyone could see this
if people in the States could SEE this
it couldn't stand....could it?
We aren't that inhuman, are we?
It reminds me of Bradley Manning
even an American citizen and soldier can't get justice
and we are still unwilling to act.
And that is apathy. Insulation.
This will be our downfall.

The emptiness grows
that knot in my stomach that started when I walked in and
saw the men and women on "trial"
And as each person leaves the courtroom, one less person
here in this experience with me, the
emptiness grows
the loneliness grows
as this cavernous courtroom becomes larger and
more desolate, lacking the warmth of any humanity
my emptiness grows
my aching accelerates
my heavy heart
feels like it just might
fall out of me.
We lose in this scenario too.
We leave empty.

And that is what is bothering me the most about all this. We're losing a war against ourselves. Our own fears, our insecurities. We feel entitled. Entitlement breeds laziness, laziness breeds ignorance. And sadly, that is reality for many in the border region. There is no reason to understand the situation of someone that has a different color skin or speaks a different language. We're scared to try. Because when we do, we no longer have the luxury of framing the situation as "us vs. them." They are us. And we are them.