Families Belong Together

Dearest Felix and Zora,

When I dropped you off at school this morning, you both struggled to let go of me. Zora- you tightened your tiny fists around my shirt and wailed when your teacher lifted you away. I could hear the echo of your cries in the hallway as we walked to your brother’s room.

And Felix, when we stepped outside into the beautiful courtyard of your classroom, filled with cars and tools and a water table waiting to be used-you didn’t want to play. You wrapped your feet and arms around my right leg like a monkey and wouldn’t let go.

It’s as if there is a fear of separation in the air. Maybe you both sense the painful separations of families at our border. Perhaps you can pick up on the heartbreak of children taken from their parents when seeking refuge or asylum in the U.S.. Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their families under the zero tolerance immigration policy.

I want to tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I had both of you at a rundown grocery store in a part of town we usually avoid. Felix, you were sitting in the seat at the front of the cart and Zora, you were in your car seat filling up the cart itself. I tucked three father’s day cards around you and a bag of grapes, a bunch of bananas, and a box of Benadryl. We were headed for the checkout stand and I paused to look at a magazine. The next thing I know, a man is standing between me and the cart- offering to help me hold one of you while I check out. I said no thanks- but he ignored my request. Felix: he started to lift you out of the cart and he reached for Zora. Everything felt off and I immediately panicked. I shouted “Stop!” and rushed out of the store, piled everything in the car and drove home fast.

I realized I had stolen $42 worth of groceries. In Ohio, shoplifting that amount is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. But I’d do it again if I felt it would keep you safe. Any parent would.

I went back to the store on my own and paid my bill. And today, I will pick you up from school today and we will be together again this evening. But there are children who do not know when they will be reunited with their families because their parents committed a misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally. This is unacceptable and wrong.

And parents fleeing their homes to protect their children isn’t new. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with baby Jesus to escape Herod. They were refugees. They were immigrants. They sought asylum.

When I read scriptures from Romans 13 (a biblical reference used by many today to justify harsh laws separating families at the boarder) it says:

Romans 13:9-10: The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Here’s what I know:

-when in doubt, loving one another and acting out of love is the greatest law of all

-Mothers from every culture and community would break a human law to protect their children

-Families belong together

My darlings, in these troubled times, I can tell you we are paying attention. We are going to do all we can to help children just like you who need their mommies and daddies.

To work for change, we can give money to organizations working to reunite families like this one: https://www.theyoungcenter.org/stories/2018/5/8/young-center-announces-the-immigrant-child-and-family-rights-project

We can call our representatives (find yours here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members_) and demand action (find a script for the call if you need it here: https://www.aclu.org/issues/call-senators-stop-dhs-separating-children).

You inspire us to work for the good.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

 

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A Letter To My Kids After The Las Vegas Shooting

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Dearest Zora and Felix,
I just tucked you into bed after hours of rocking on our front porch chairs and singing 13 verses of “the wheels on the bus” at the dinner table. In our sweet little nest, it seemed like an ordinary evening.

Zora-you showed off your cooing and kicking on the baby gym.

Felix-you splashed in the tub and practiced counting to 14.

We shared a few family hugs at Felix’s request.

Then, as we turned out the lights, I sang our usual night night songs.

We honored all of our family traditions at home and it seemed like any ordinary Monday. But, my darlings, inside- my heart was aching.

Because last night, other families were trying to have an ordinary evening of singing songs together and sharing food at a country music concert – but a gunman opened fire and hundreds were wounded, dozens lost their lives.

It feels like the ordinary has become unsafe in this broken world.

How can I let you go to school tomorrow? How can I let you out of my sight?

How can I sleep knowing other mothers, just like me, lost their children last night?

How can I rest when it seems the news is always reminding me to be afraid, to shield you from the outside world, to keep you all to myself – which is the only way to be sure you will never see terror like our country saw last night in Las Vegas?

But then, I remember the wonder that lives in your eyes.

You both carry such courage and such hope in your bright faces. You long to learn and grow. You have an openness to the world.

My job as your mom is to foster that courage. Because you, my dears, will be the change I wish to see in the world.

I promise you I will do my part as you are growing up.

I will vote for smart gun laws and I will pray for peace that passes all understanding. I will teach you to be leaders and bridgebuilders.

I will cling tightly to the good in the world, and I will make sure you have eyes to see it too.

On a night like tonight, as our community grieves the violence and terror we saw in Las Vegas, you remind me to help. You remind me to advocate for change.

I wish I could take away the threats of the world. I wish I could stop these horrible events from happening. But even though I can’t wipe away this sorrow and tragedy, being your mom reminds me that I’m obligated to do something.

So tomorrow, we will all get up and go to work and to school.

We will all show kindness to our neighbors and compassion to those who are different than us.

We will show patience and understanding when conflict arises, and we will offer forgiveness and gentleness in the midst of frustration.

This is how we shine a light when the darkness comes. This is what we can do in our own little neighborhood. This is how we stop fear from winning.

Tomorrow, we begin again. One step at a time, one spark of goodness in the world that needs it so desperately.

May it begin with us,

Love, Mom

 

 

 

A Letter to My Future Daughter on International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

Dearest Child,

Today is International Women’s Day.

For the first time in my life, I celebrate being a woman AND- having the great honor of ushering another woman into the world this year.

The world desperately needs you- and I cannot wait to see the ways you will bring change, compassion and justice to it.

May you come into this world ready to shine.

Be your whole self from day one. Be bold. Be courageous. Speak your mind. Dream big dreams.

You can do anything and be anything you wish. Generations of women before you have worked hard to ensure this inheritance for you.

As you grow and spread your wings- be sure to take others with you. In your lifetime, there will still be many women with less opportunity than you. Notice them. Listen to them. Take their hands and partner together as you grow. Invite them along as you make your way in the world. Never feel threatened by collaboration or sharing with other women- instead, live with a lens of abundance.

One of the greatest resources you will experience in your life is the power of women joining together.

As a woman: you will have a voice. Use it to speak up, to ask for what you deserve, and to advocate for others.

As a woman: remember you are more than what you look like, more than who you birth or who you marry. You are more than a token, more than a quota. You are a full human being. Never let anyone tell you differently.

The world you will enter this July is still evolving. We have work to do to make sure all women are safe, empowered, and encouraged. But I can promise you that you are joining a family that will work hard to ensure that your rights, your safety, and your potential are protected and promoted.

We are so excited for your arrival. On this International Women’s Day, I celebrate all women- but more than anything- I celebrate the promise and mystery of your life- which will begin in July. When you arrive, I know the whole world will be changed, and blessed.

I leave you with this excerpt from the poem “I am a Woman” by Riffat Hassan, may you always trust your eternal heart:

I am a woman

with the eternal heart of a woman

the bearer of life

the nurturer of life

the protector of life

I can give life

because I am not afraid of pain

for I know that love is always pain

even joyful love is ringed with pain

and no one can love

who cannot embrace with heart and soul

the pain of living

the pain of loving.

Love, Mama

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