Friday, February 24, 2012

Five Years Later: A Life of Solidarity

“The response from those who hope to advance the cause of humanity can only be to globalize solidarity, that is, to globalize the practice of love.” ¬ Dean Brackley

It all started when I was 20, with a two-week immersion trip to Guatemala. The next summer it was two months in Guatemala. The summer after that was two months in Belize. I got hooked. But really, I fell in love.

I followed my heart all over Central America and back again. I lost myself in crowded markets and in the rush of waves on a black sand beach. I learned some good Spanish slag while talking politics and adapted some new pick-up lines at a neighborhood bar. I walked dirt roads in rural areas, and crossed lanes of traffic, one at a time, to catch a bus in the city. I swam laps next to a police officer on Wednesdays and marched to the cathedral on Saturday evenings. I ate pupusas for breakfast and tacos for a snack. I went to international conferences in fancy hotels and shared a cup of coffee with a friend while sitting on the front stoop at dusk. I prayed at church, I prayed on the bus, I prayed at work, and I always prayed when my heart was stirred. This was just a taste of the fullness of my life as I lived in love.

Five years ago, almost to the day, I crossed a pedestrian bridge from one immigration check-point in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to another in El Paso, Texas. My friend Tom and I were on our last leg of a month-long pilgrimage through Mexico. The basic idea was to follow migrants through Mexico in an effort to understand the realities they faced while in transit to the US. The experience was intense and for me, this trip was the end of my life in Central America. I was on my way home.

The reality is, I didn’t know where home really was. After all, I had just spent the last 18 months living in El Salvador and I was returning to Connecticut, the place where I grew up. Where was my home anyway? And as I look back now, I can say that I was terrified of that time in my life. Afraid of the transitions that were about to take place, Mexico offered one last collection of memories to reflect on.

Here I am, five years later, and it feels like I was just there.
Here I am, five years later, and I am preparing for a new transition in my life.

The month of February marks a month of love for many. And that is true for me as well. On a sunny, February day in 2007, I crossed a border and began something new. I left Central America behind and tried my best to live in the present with every step forward. Cross-cultural living has become a part of my very soul. I fell in love at age 20 and that affair has continued ever since.

Living in solidarity with the poor, and for me, that means the poor of Central America, has changed my life. I learned how to love…and fall on my face in the process. It has been a humbling journey and one that I never cease to reflect on. The strings of my own humanity are tugged today as I remember that walk I took on that pedestrian bridge, straddling the two worlds that my heart still rests in.

With that, I leave you with the words of my friend and mentor Dean Brackley, as he shared some wisdom to a group of students embarking on their love affair in El Salvador. His words are so very true and important for anyone who is on a journey of solidarity.

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