But how could you not be grateful for the things you have? A job, a family, food on the table, heat in the winter… even first world luxuries are at your fingertips, but you downplay them, blinding yourself to how fortunate you are. I look at your face, at your smile, and you are so beautiful but you don’t even see it. You truly don’t see how fortunate you are.
And then I look at that shy smile of that little girl in Nogales, apologizing for not being able to speak more English. I smile and shake my head, and apologize myself for my broken Spanish. She receives free lunches at the Casa because she lives in such a low-income neighborhood that otherwise, she might not eat that day. But we smile despite our differences, and we laugh despite the harsh conditions around us.
I look at the tear-stained face of the woman at Nazareth House, crying on my shoulder because an uncaring government separated her from her daughter. We do not speak as her tears flow freely. We do not speak as I wrap my head around this separation, around the unfairness that her daughter was fortunate enough to be born in the United States, and she herself is a Mexican national, and because of this her daughter may grow up not hearing her mother’s voice.
I look at the time-worn face of the recently deported migrant man, who announces that he is going to attempt the crossing to El Norte today and make his way to Tucson. He has lived in the United States for so long that he has lost his ability to speak Spanish, a challenge now that he has been deported back to a country that seems foreign to him. We all love our Mexico, he says to me, it’s just that we cannot make a living here anymore. He knows that he will walk for at least five days in temperatures that may exceed 110+ during the day, and be near freezing at night. He knows the risks, and still, he has no choice.
I look at the face of this little girl, of this distraught woman, of this exhausted man, and underneath all of their sorrow i see that they have not lost what they once had. Still, they hope. Still, they pray. Still, they know they are blessed with the little they do have.
You complain how much you hate doing your homework. She won’t go to school past her early teenage years. You complain that your mother can’t cook, or that she makes the same meals so frequently. As this little girl grows up, she sees the sacrifices her mother has made to ensure that her family has food every night. You complain about not having money to go out shopping with your friends. She has never had a new pair of shoes in her life. All of the things you expect as standard are the things that millions of people the world over will only ever dream of.
I wish you could meet that young girl. She changed my life, and though I don’t even know her name, I am forever in her debt. I can never repay her for what she has given me, but I can spread her message of hope. I can share her story. I must share her story.
Elie Wiesel once said that not to transmit an experience is to betray it. This is why: so we can reflect on our own lives, so we can reflect on our own decisions and re-examine our own values to improve not only our individual worlds but the lives of everyone we meet. We must think globally, and act locally. We must witness, and assess, and take action – and then witness, assess, and take action again in an endless cycle of experience and change. We must realize that our experiences are all connected. We must realize that we, as one, global community, are all connected.