Updated: Feb 14
A PERSONAL REFLECTION FROM BRING HOPE HOME WEEKEND BY MATT L.
This weekend, my wife and I (along with several other friends!) were able to participate in an immersion experience with Hope CommUnity Center and St. Pete Underground in Apopka, Florida. It was an experience that will be in my heart forever. We spent the weekend living with, working alongside and hearing stories from migrant workers. Below are 10 thoughts on my experience (I won't use any real names in this post, as I haven't received permission.)
1. The Spanish I've learned over my life hasn't completely abandoned me! Although most of the people I interacted with spoke English, through lots of their grace and forgiveness, I spent most of the weekend speaking in my new friends native tongue. Language is important. I have heard (and in my youth and immaturity also said) that people living in this country should speak English. Language is a part of culture. Learning a new language, especially one as crazy as English (rough and through don't even rhyme!), is difficult and takes time. Have grace and compassion.
2. The work this particular group of people do is difficult and thankless work. From picking and packing produce, to warehouse work, cleaning and construction. I have seen people post about immigrants "taking their jobs."I think the reality is more accurately stated "migrant workers are willing to take (and excel at) the jobs we don't want to do, but are necessary for our privilege to continue uninterrupted." Google and check out the "Take My Job" campaign from 2010.
3. Poetry isn't really a part of my story. But I have seen time and time again the poetry of the marginalized, harassed and abused people. This poetry is full of power, vulnerability, and character. If you have an opening in your heart to learn about a community or people group, take some time to allow the work of their artists to echo through you.
4. Latino hospitality is... Family, Food, Laughter, Love, Loudness, Kindness, Open-handed. All happening at the same time, so fast and so full.
5. Before you criticize anyone for coming to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, do a bit of research. The process is almost totally unbelievable. If you have questions about this, please reach out. I'm not a professional and in truth know only the tip of the iceberg.
6. This weekend I was hammered by the story of a woman about my age. It's not my story to tell, but she is a hero in my eyes. Even though her status every minute of every day is uncertain, she continues to provide resources, care, assistance, and hope to the community around her. I am still in awe.
7. Anyone who knows me knows that food is important to me. This past weekend was an absolute delight to my taste buds. Arroz con pollo, platanos, frutas frescas, pan dulce, empanadas... all shared with me at tables where I didn't look like anyone else in the room. Shared with an open hand and an open heart.
8. From my observation, family is about as important to Latino culture as breathing. I heard stories of families:
- Having to make decisions about which siblings get to come to the US and which don't.
- Parents and their kids separating for decades.
- Losing a family member to deportation and never being able to reunite.
- Spouses having to pay to see the ones they love the most in this world.
The world of undocumented living is not conducive to having a family, and yet to give the next generation a chance at a better life, people are making decisions akin to holding their breath for the rest of their lives.
9. I don't usually post about politics. I think the system is broken and having two choices that paint every other opinion you have is ridiculous. But the current way in which immigration is handled is absolutely insane. There obviously needs to be a system in place, but the current one is untenable. As elections come and go, educate yourselves on the changes that are occurring in these systems. Let's try to use what power we have to create positive reform.
10. I wish everyone I know could experience a weekend like we just had. It would shatter some of you. But you don't have to go through a program like the one at Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka. There are organizations all over dedicated to serving people. I encourage you to go and hear a story. Take your children to hear stories. And together, let's break cycles of ignorance.