I have recently come to the realization that I am suffering from a soulache. And perhaps a meaningful step for mitigating the weight is expunging some of my thoughts, especially since my typical method is to anguish and vent only to my close friends and families. And so, if you’ll indulge me, here goes:
* A warning first. Soulaches tend to be contagious, and, in this instance, I actively hope someone else catches the same bug. *
The detainment of children at the Southern border of the United States has brought me to a place of great grief. Infants, toddlers, and teenagers are separated from parents and caregivers and left in holding pens bereft of sufficient food, water, and warmth. As easy and tempting as it may be to sling mud and cast stones—and, trust me, I have been doing plenty of that—I now find myself teetering with a weary soul imagining the torment and fear these children are experiencing as a result of desperately fleeing other torments and fears.
It ought to wreck our souls as people of God. But many of us shake our heads and do nothing, even those who cling to a passion for social justice, or staunchly identify as pro life, or believe that all human beings bear the image and likeness of God. Or, rather than fall to our knees, we assuage our anger by scathingly and viciously harassing those we believe to be at fault for the crisis. Some blame the government officials. Others blame the parents, who should have known better than to try to seek asylum in the land of liberty instead of watch as their children are recruited to gangs and their lives are frequently threatened.
How soon we forget…
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15
where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”where Jesus was taken from them and placed in a facility with other children who had fled. There he stayed until the Egyptians deemed Joseph and Mary worthy of entry into the land of Egypt. Fourteen days he stayed, without water for bathing or a bed for sleeping. Matthew 2:13-15
What do we allow to get in the way of our souls being twisted from despair at this world’s brokenness? What excuses do we conjure to mitigate the tempting flicker of conscience that might compel us to change how we see the world? How tightly do we cling to our political affiliation such that it justifies our complacency?
Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” Deuteronomy 27:19
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. Zechariah 7:9-10
Our nation, our culture, our American Empire that we lust after so voraciously does indeed oppress the needy. It even punishes those who help them, as it has done by charging a professor for giving water and shelter to his fellow man running for his life through the desert. We treat migrants as “other” and dub them as invaders, rapists, and leeches. What a difference it would make if we saw them as they are: children of God.
Aside from the opportunity to treat the handful or brave and resilient Latino men, women, and children I have had the privilege to know as therapy clients, I feel utterly stuck and lost on how to help. What can be done? Seriously, I’m taking suggestions. I have already found an organization that I have supported with a donation, the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. But I am open to hearing more ideas, more inspiration, and more opportunities to make a difference.
I want to put this soulache to good use. No more excuses. No tidy political rationalizations. It’s time to make a difference.
Matt Coldagelli (’14) majored in English writing and psychology at Calvin. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and adolescents. He watches an absurd amount of TV and is a certified craft beer snob. His emotional wellbeing is overly dependent on Wisconsin sports, and thus he finds himself often in a state of disappointment. Matt lives with his lovely wife and daughter in Phoenix, AZ.