When I write, I always want the migrants to be the protagonists, the good guys. But I have known for quite some time that this characterization is not always true. I have written many drafts about the sins that I encounter here, by the nature of working with human beings, but never published anything. It feels like a betrayal, a dangerous acknowledgement that could give ammunition to hate and prejudice. But here is the truth: the humans I meet here are far from perfect.
For example, I deal frequently with deep-seated machismo. Many objectify women both physically and in a role as a housekeeping servant. Others leave their wife and children behind but end up forgetting their Central American family in favor of a woman in the US. Still others simply take advantage of women along the journey north. And for some I can hear the abusive relationship behind what they say about wives or ex-wives. These attitudes or tendencies are not true of all who pass through here. But it is the case for some.
The same is true for the selfishness I see as a response to the stress of the journey. I can recount beautiful stories of migrants supporting each other. But I can also tell of the teenagers who went back on their word and in the process ruined the chance three migrants had to return to their country. When we pointed out to them the consequences of their actions, they said “What do the lives of others matter to me?” Or two friends who left from the same town in Honduras. When one saw that the other would need to stay the night in the shelter to rest and recover from an injury, he said, “I am leaving. He will hold me up too much.”
Even looking at this reality, we are often uncomfortable with the word “sin.” It sounds far too judgmental. But acknowledging that sin exists is recognizing that we all live far from the perfection that God intended and desires for us. Sin is tragic. But not exclusive. It is in all of us. I look at myself and see my sin as well. If the migrants here are not idyllic heroes of their stories, neither am I.
The hero of the story is God. A God who loves us unconditionally. And because of that, when we acknowledge His love and recognize our sin we can be free of it. In fact, Jesus said, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” His ultimate sacrifice on the cross was in penitence for our sins.
How is this all relevant for my work with migrants? It means I am disillusioned by their imperfections. Just as I am frustrated by my own sin. But that sin should not stop me from waking up every morning and loving them. I work with human beings, loved by God. Admitting their humanity does not make for as tidy of a story line from an advocate’s perspective. But it helps me enter with love into a complex reality.
What are your thoughts on my engagement with this topic? I have written many un-published drafts and know this entry touches on controversial areas. I am interested in hearing your perspectives – either in the comments section or in a conversation in the coming weeks.