My four months of work in Nogales have been an endless series of goodbyes. With my daily practice this final one should not be as hard. And yet it is.
As hard as it is to always see the migrants who I love leave I know that it is much better for them to move on. It broke my heart to see a 19 year old kid full of life and goofiness fall under the influences of drugs in the streets of Nogales as he stayed for too long while trying to gather money to cross again. I work often with mothers who just want to find a way to leave Nogales in order to be with their children – whether that means returning to their homes in Mexico or attempting to return to their homes in the US. This desire to move on is especially strong in the Christmas season where every celebration seems to make the migrants more homesick.
I always remind the migrants that life neither begins nor ends here in Nogales. This is a short stop in the journey and they have other places to go. So as I say goodbye to migrants every day I do so with hope because they are moving on.
It is much more difficult to convince myself that I too have to leave. In the past four months, this has become my home. I share a meal every day with a community of women who teach me about practicalities of life, humility, hard work, love, and God. Every week I see the same wonderful people who are committed to serving the migrants by helping us in the comedor. I work with Jesuits who are as different from each other as can be but that in that difference have expanded my understanding of the world. I have my routines, my quirks, my traditions, my jokes with the migrants, my songs, and my prayers.
And yet I am a 20 year old college student and my life neither begins nor ends in Nogales. I love every day that I have the privilege to spend time with the migrants. But just as this time comes for every migrant, today it was time for me to say goodbye.
But it is goodbye with a promise. A promise that I gave to the migrants this morning. That I will not forget them. I will not forget their stories, their love, their hope, their faith, their tears, or their smiles. I am leaving not because I no longer want to be in Nogales but because it is time to move on to continue walking in the path that God has set out for me. I told the migrants that I cannot take them with me to the US but that I will carry them in my heart and in my prayers. That I will continue sharing their stories and working towards justice.
I have already left Nogales but I think that at least for a little while I will continue to maintain this blog. I still have many stories to tell. And these migrants still need someone to tell them.