The last few days of my trip, I was in Ajo, AZ offering support to the incredible team of volunteers working there.
Border Patrol brings individuals and families they are releasing from their processing center to Ajo, and the volunteers then test them for COVID, get more paperwork filled out, and help them with transportation to Casa Alitas in Tucson, or the IRC Welcoming Center in Phoenix. A labor of love that keeps the volunteers busy anywhere from 4-12 hours a day.
On my last day, after the COVID testing was done, I was moving among the tables of families seeing how everyone was doing and whether they needed more food, etc. while they waited to head to Tucson.
One of the groups was a family of 6, with ages ranging from the 70 year-old Abuela (grandmother) down to a 2 year-old. One of the kids was on WhatsApp talking with their aunt who was still back in Venezuela. She had been unable to make the trip with them, and was telling them all how much she missed them already. That's when I noticed the tears streaming down the face of the grandmother. I realized that was her daughter on the other end of the phone. A daughter that she had to leave behind.
Can you imagine living in a community your entire life, surrounded by family, and at 70+ years of age being faced with circumstances that made it necessary to uproot yourself and travel to a foreign country? A country where you don't speak the language, or understand the culture, and where you must rely on the kindness of strangers to support you on your journey. A journey that you share with some members of your family, while leaving others behind.
As I watched her tears, and placed a hand on her shoulder, I heard laughter and celebration from another table in the room, and was once again reminded of the joy and sorrow that occupy the same moments down along our border.
The knowledge that those celebrating would face tears along the way, and those shedding tears would find moments of joy and relief, stayed with me as I moved through the day.
This work takes a strong commitment to awareness and presence. I want to always see each individual standing in front of me, and understand that their journey and experience is different from that of the person standing beside them. I am also committed to staying present within my own body, aware of what I'm taking in and then taking the steps to process and release all of the joy and trauma I'm sharing with those on this journey.