When did we see you a Stranger?
Angelina (not her real name) has been cleaning our house in Green Lake regularly for almost ten years. Last Tuesday morning [Nov. 15], when I greeted her at the door, she responded with her accustomed cheerful smile and greeting. Although she easily speaks English, we spoke in Spanish, a language I grew up with in my native El Paso.
I asked immediately how she was adjusting to the election results. She put on a brave face, but then teared up. “ We have done a lot of crying,” she admitted. Angelina and her husband are from Mexico, and are undocumented. Their daughters, aged 14 and 11, were born here and thus are U.S. citizens. Her husband is disabled and cannot work.
She said that as the election results became clear, she began to feel ill, and went to bed. Her children started crying and became terrified, but Angelina reassured them: “No nos van a matar,” she said. “They won’t kill us.” Such is the level of fright among their community, especially among children, as a result of the pre-election vitriol.
Angelina spoke of the anguish of a neighbor after the election. The neighbor’s work ran later than usual that day. Her school-age son, accustomed to letting himself in the house after school, started fearing his Mom had been picked up. Terrified , he went to a neighbor’s house. The neighbors, American citizens, took him in. His mother arrived to find her son gone, and likewise panicked. Finally she located him at the neighbor’s house.
Angelina is an independent contractor whose work must support her whole family.
“I keep good work records, and I am proud to pay taxes,” she told my wife Anne in English. She worked early on to learn English, and her children go to an all-English school, although she speaks Spanish to them at home. It’s clear that a week after the election, Angelina remains deeply shaken.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” responds Jesus lovingly to the righteous who had seemed to doubt their own faith. (Matthew 25:36). In these last days, we in the churches have been given the mission of giving thanks for, and welcoming, all the Angelinas, and those like her and her family—immigrants, Muslims, people of color, native Americans, LGBTQ people—who make up the human family.
Can we take it on?
(The Rev. Canon) Dick Gillett