Finding joy when walking with migrants

At the beginning of June, Caroline Boden, director of shareholder advocacy, participated in a border immersion trip to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy Justice team. The following are Caroline’s thoughts following the experience:

This trip to the border was a profoundly moving experience. I witnessed tremendous heartache and grief but also determination, gratitude, and joy. On our first full day in El Paso, we visited the Sacred Heart Shelter and sat as witnesses to migrants’ journeys. I met a family of six from Venezuela – two young parents with four children ranging in age from 4 to 11 – who had made the extremely difficult and dangerous journey through the Darién Gap and had ridden atop La Bestia, also known as the train of death, that runs through Mexico. The parents described sleepless days as they clung to their children on the roof of the train, of arriving at the border with little more than the clothes on their back, and the uncertainty as they continued to await their asylum appointment with Customs and Border Protection.

I expected to feel a great deal of sadness and grief during this trip, and while my heart was heavy hearing about the hardships and trauma this family endured, I hadn’t expected the optimism and joy they exuded. While we spoke to the parents, their six-year-old daughter was playing next to me on the gym floor. After a few minutes of drawing in her notebook, she passed the paper and pencil my way and motioned to the page where she had drawn a tic-tac-toe grid and was inviting me to play with her. That simple gesture blossomed into singing ‘Heads, Knees, and Shoulders’ together, playing with all the donated toys she’d received, and learning some basic Spanish from her and her friends. I was touched by how she welcomed me into her life at that moment and the laughter we shared.

When we take the time to accompany migrants, even by sitting and listening, we acknowledge and respect their human dignity, and we deepen our collective humanity.

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