But there was stability, at least for this group of people and for this period of time. We fortunate ones who were reared in that stability unquestionably benefitted. However, as one who is increasingly turning to world past to make sense of the world present, I know that kind of societal stability has been more rare than abundant.
As I began this column, I sat in the midst of strangers, all as anxious as I. We each had a loved one in surgery. At that moment, my husband’s heartbeat had been taken over by a machine. Capable hands were in the process of replacing one heart valve and repairing another.
My husband came through fine–and we hope to have many years yet to enjoy each other’s companionship. But at some point, death will come. We will be parted. It will hurt. The world will spin.
Last Saturday, I attended the memorial service for the father of a long-time friend. Her parents, my parents, and the parents of many I knew growing up were all members of a large Sunday school class at East Dallas Christian Church.
The man who died, Jack Cannon, was 99 years old. WFAA TV featured him and his life, Lucille, on the occasion of their 75th wedding anniversary. The video and the story they told was fascinating.
And now, after 77 years, his dear wife, Lucille, is without her partner.
At end of the service, the congregation was invited to stand and sing, “Because He Lives,” one of the deceased’s favorite hymns. His frail wife of 77 years had been helped into her wheelchair. Her daughter prepared to take her from the chapel to the reception. As Lucille was wheeled closer to the aisle, the officiating pastor bent over, took her hand, and began singing the hymn straight to her. She looked up at the pastor and began to sing with her.
As Lucille sang, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, Because He lives, all fear is gone,” her face faltered. She began to weep.
I was between two other daughters of that Sunday School class. One by one, we burst into tears, each later blaming the other for having “started” it. We put away our hymnals, wiping our eyes, unable to do anything but stay in that space of grace, love, grief, and hope.
It was possibly the most beautiful scene I have ever witnessed.
But their world–this world of Great Depression survivors, of men who worked for the same company all their lives and whose wives reared stable families, a world where decent pensions combined with habits of frugal living meant a joyous retirement of fun and travel, a world where people stayed in place, attended church every Sunday, created lifelong friends–this world passes away.
Some of it needs to pass: it was only good for a select group, primarily white. Single mothers had no place. Some marriages were unquestionably miserable, but no other options seemed possible. Too many felt uncomfortably trapped.
For centuries, vast numbers have been routinely slaughtered or had their sons conscripted for wars that the powerful few instigated in order to get even more power or their daughters snatched to satisfy the sexual appetites of rapacious men. Fragile families descended into deeper hopelessness of food shortages and aching starvation. Mass migrations consistently arise from such terrifying circumstances.
This brings me to the present crisis at our border with Mexico. What conditions bring about these desperate actions where utterly impoverished and downtrodden people, generally illiterate with no training other than how to raise crops, take horrific journeys, carrying small children on their backs, to see if they can find some safety, somewhere? They flee terror, poverty, and mayhem in their homelands.
Many of us had ancestors who arrived here for similar reasons. Few immigrants, even legal ones, have it easy upon arrival. However, I think it fair to say that none have been as badly treated as those now attempting to cross the border.
What little stability these children have is found only in their parents. And now that is gone.
As a nation, we must not do this. As a nation that wants to call itself Christian, we must especially not do this. Jesus, the center of Christianity, was himself a refugee, taken by his parents to Egypt to escape what would otherwise be certain death at the hands of Herod. When we refuse to welcome the little ones, no matter their mode of entry, we mock the very existence of the one we call Savior and Lord.
Let us find ways to feet on our anguish and find ways to relieve the suffering. At the very least, contribute to funds set up to provide bail money for the imprisoned parents so they may find their children–assuming that somewhere, somehow, records have been kept as to which child was sent to which baby-prison.
And if it turns out that those placements have been inadequately documented, then hold all to account for their mistreatment of the innocent. We cannot go down this trail as a country and come out unscathed, either as a nation or as people of faith.
Once we get past the current crisis–and the rash of public opinion now does seem to be so turning against the current cruel policies that something will probably be done soon–we MUST examine ourselves and figure out how we got here. What has enabled the policymakers to act so egregiously against innocent children? Why did they feel so free to do so? What will it take to convince them that they do not represent the vast majority of Americans when treating others this way?
We need to ask and answer these question as we head into the next set of elections.
Photo Credit: Christy Thomas