"For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."
"I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me."
Well, aside from the fact that I am overdue [again!] However, this particular blog post has long mulled over in my mind for quite some time now. Growing up in public school in diverse West Seattle, it was completely normal for me to have friends from all over the world, varying cultures, religions and countries. In fact, I tend to find myself more uneasy when I am not surrounded by a fair level of diversity.
Well, cool enough, Nina, but why are you going down this route when you started off with this bible verse?
Funny thing about foreign languages is that they sometimes change the way one thinks. In Portuguese, the bolded part of the verse is stated as: "fui estrangeiro, e vocês me acolheram." Literally: I was the foreigner, and you welcomed me.
That said, it has truly been fascinating to be at the whims of someone else's rulebook even more so than the average citizen. I remember when I first moved to Sao Paulo last year with hardly any Portuguese under my belt -- thank God that I had someone who could help me navigate the system, otherwise I would have not been able to understand what it was I needed to do, how to do it, where to do it...etc. Though I still remember my friend David's smart aleck joking when we were at the Federal Police [immigration department] for my paperwork, and he said, "Oh Nina, I'm sorry...deportation.... --What?! --I'm joking! Now you just - how was it you said? Hurry up and wait."
There's a lot of that. Bureaucracy, red tape, hours upon hours of waiting, getting redirected somewhere else when you think you were in the right spot with the right documents and the right information... and even in this, my second year, with a grasp of Portuguese and the process -- I mean, I'd done it once before -- and yet I remember walking down the street and fighting back hot tears of frustration once in dealing with what felt like a huge amount of bureaucracy all on the same day, and it was just too much for me to deal with all at once... the irony being is it was something simple that was proving problematic, but because I had first registered in Sao Paulo, and am now in Rio de Janeiro, there was a small thing that was proving to be a snafu with someone who was a stickler for the rules and not giving me any way to work around the complication. [And yet the next day, someone else called me to deal with the issue and we worked around it anyways.]
That said...it is rather amazing how some things can seep into your subconsciousness even when you think you've got it all together. The inherent reaction of cautiously glancing at a police officer as you pass, even though you haven't done anything -- but simply because you yourself know that you walk a different line than Brazilians do. When you feel burdened to the point where you just want to take a break from thinking and doing and being in another language - and yet having no choice. To realize that whether or not you notice it right away, you still have that knee-jerk reaction when someone pauses and asks where you're from, because they can tell, except you don't really know how they are going to take it when you say where you're from -- when Lord knows what you wouldn't give to just let it be and blend in for once, and go unnoticed -- well, until you open your mouth. [And this is me with a pretty good grasp of Portuguese saying this -- even so, one still has their random moments of feeling beaten down by the system once in a while.] That even sometimes the simplest of things can prove problematic because you may not have something in line because you're different somehow.
There are countless reflections on these events, from all sides of opinion. But something I have been constantly trying to ask myself and remember in difficult situations or moments of what seems to me to be injustice, is to ask: where is Jesus in these moments? Where is the one who called us to love, above all us, and encourages us to turn the other cheek, to aid the widow and the orphan, to seek justice and encourage the oppressed? By no means do I want religion in my government, mind you -- I am a Christian and a political science major, and I want no one's religious interpretations dictating policy. However...I do believe that as people of faith, what we believe does encourage us to action. What does that mean in times like these?
|Icon of Saint Toribio Romo, Patron Saint of Immigrants,|
which will eventually reside at St Matthew's Episcopal Parish in Phoenix.
Recently made by Father William Hart McNichols.