It is easy to celebrate our country’s birthday once again if we focus on the love and compassion we see all around us. Here is a striking example:
Recently in San Antonio, Raices, an organization providing education and legal services for immigrants and refugees, asked Charlotte and Dave Willner to do a fundraiser headlined “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child.” As Charlotte wrote on Facebook later, the goal was to raise $1,500.
But the sight and sounds of the children touched the heart of America. By June 25, 524,045 had responded with donations totaling $20,094,104. I was happy to see on my Facebook page that my daughter Mary, a mathematics professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and my niece, Elena Sandoval-Lucero, vice president of Front Range Community College in Boulder, Colorado, were two of the donors.
But the response did not end there. “You called your senators and representatives to insist that they end the practice of family separation,” Charlotte Willner wrote in thanking the donors. “You shared this cause with everyone you knew — even when you don’t usually post about stuff like this. A lot of you gave more than once! … There are truly no words for your generosity, your compassion and your love for these families. The passion and effort you put into this cause will change lives — and will save lives.
“We collectively long for the day when all of these families are back together — but we also recognize that it won’t be easy. … We know we have to be in this for the long haul. As Raices said on Twitter today:
‘The orgs doing this work desperately want families back together. We also know this is a system that does not move fast and people can be easily exploited by fast seemingly easy solutions. We wish there was an easy solution. There isn’t. The process means visiting parents and children in detention centers and getting them released one by one.'”
In the same vein, it was good to see a powerful video from Jesuit Father Jim Martin, editor at large of America magazine, speaking on Facebook on how God wants us to deal with immigrants. Citing the Scriptures, Father Martin concluded: “We are supposed to welcome them. That is God’s law.”
Of course, there are many other groups quietly bringing God’s healing love and compassion to the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned and the poor. One of them is Medical Aid to Haiti (MATH), a group based in West Hartford, to which I make a small annual contribution.
Volunteer physicians, nurses and other medical personnel from St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford make several visits each year to Haiti to enhance the work of clinics sponsored by the organization. Nancy Cocchiola, a grandmother who works in the marketing development, wrote in a recent newsletter:
“A favorite saying of my grandmother was, ‘You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.’ However, it seems that is not always true. Following the 2010 devastation in Haiti, my young granddaughters made and sold refrigerator magnets to aid Haiti and raised $1,500!
“Learning from them and after hearing Dr. Michael R. Bourque speak at the Rochelle Bard and Friends concert to benefit Haiti, I knew I wanted to become involved in MATH.”
The star that guides all is Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
That is the spirit we must strive to preserve in America.
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