By Federico Gomez/ Memphis
One of the things that really amazes me about this experience that is being alive, is the human capacity to help other people. It is not something that I can easily define or understand in all its amplitude. But, I know that it is difficult to witness an act of kindness, be it individual or collective, without it leaving a mark in one´s conscience, as an indelible reminder of something that is profound and essentially human.
I write about this because, during the last week and a half, thousands of Central American immigrants, who had been locked up after having requested asylum, were kicked out of the detention centers with little more than the clothes they were wearing and an envelope containing their notification to appear before the immigration court. After obtaining a bus ticket to get to where they had family or friends that could host them, hundreds of these people, mostly women with children, passed through this city making a forced stop on their journey to various final destinations distributed through a dozen states and met a group of people who quickly organized themselves to offer support, some food and water, help with the information of their routes, clothes and other supplies for the road.
Many of the people who have seen the repeated scene of these migrant families arriving at the bus station, including the staff of this facility, may have been under the impression that those offering this help belong to an organization that is dedicated to doing this work in a regular way, but, although it is true that all these people are dedicated to grassroots activism, this support has been the result of spontaneous collaboration between a group of people with a great vocation of service, motivated by their desire to make this a society better and that has had the support of many other people through donations of supplies, money, and time. And this task still continues, given that the crisis is not over. Every day between seventy and one hundred people (sometimes more) arrive practically with nothing more that what they are wearing, after having spent time in private detention centers well known for their precarious conditions.
Those people who put their time, their heart, and their hands at the service of others, all have a job, a family, a life with the same complications and problems as you and me. And yet, they choose to make an effort and find the time to work to improve the world around them. Choosing is, in my opinion, the keyword here. Faced with a world that is often chaotic and under the pressure of a classist and frenetic consumer society, we can choose to do something that, in this context, can end up being a wonderful act of rebellion: we can choose kindness and collaboration instead of confrontation and individualism; we can choose to reach out instead of looking the other way; we can choose integrity instead of fear. We can choose.
It may seem offensive to ask you all about how you have chosen to live your lives. It could be interpreted it as if I were making an improper comparison between those people and you. But is it not important to ask ourselves this question? Is it not fundamental, at a time when we are surrounded by the miserable discourse of those who promote hate speech, that we consider what makes us better as a collective and not just what saves us as individuals? Think about it. Think if, by accepting the limits in which we have been taught to live, we are not losing one of the skills that has brought us here, that of surviving as a group.
I think it is time to bet on kindness to end the structures that produce the inequalities we suffer; time to get to work on improving our lives by improving the lives of all the people with whom we share this planet. It is the right time to unite and jointly build truly inclusive societies and discover paths that go beyond our home to work routine, to places where we can find who we really are: humanity that inherited a complex past and is responsible for a common future.
As I wrote at the beginning, it is difficult to define kindness and to understand it in all its amplitude. But a good place to start is to lend your hands to the continuous and, often, unrecognized work of helping other people who have been trapped in the cruel gears of the society we inhabit. If you dare to do this, you will meet incredible people like Cristina Condorí, Iván Flores, Nour Hantouli, Edith Ornelas, Laura Coleman, Lee Coleman, Hunter Dempster, Nicole Dávila, Doubi Jenheather, Ann Schiller and many other people who offer also their hands, their time and their skills without reservations. I name these people here because much of the work they have done in the last ten days has been anonymous, as in many other initiatives in which they have participated, and I would like to acknowledge the effort they have put this time to organize and provide the help that these families coming from detention center are still being provided on their way through Memphis, on their pilgrimage to a better future.
I encourage you to offer what you can, for to do good there are never too many hands.