Sunday, March 19, 2017

This Side of the Rio Grande

We got home tonight after spending four days and four nights camping at Big Bend Ranch State Park.  This park is in the southern most part of Texas, butting right up to the Rio Grande River, the border between the United States and Mexico.  The park continues in beauty and grandeur on the other side, of course, but it is called by another name there.

Our campsite was about 100 yards away from the river and 25 miles away from the main entrance. With only these two pieces of information in mind, I milled around with an uncharacteristic sense of foreboding for a couple of days, as I did my little part in getting things ready to go.  For all I knew, it seemed like the perfect recipe for disaster - being so close to the border, and so far from help.

But, my spirits started to lift the closer we got, and eventually, I figured if we were all going to die out there, it would probably be best not to ruin our last earthly memories with a bad mood.  So, my husband pitched our tent, I put the rug out, and we called it home.  And it was breathtaking.

I could bore you with pictures for days, but I'll just share this one, because it's really the point, here.

I didn't see this particular sign until Day 3, but we were warned verbally and in writing that the price was high for crossing the river, if you were caught.  This rule, like everything else around, took its turn at looming large.  

Just like a little kid who is told she can go anywhere but over there,  I couldn't stop thinking about being in this 300,000 acre place, hemmed in by a river I couldn't cross.  And I couldn't cross it for no reason other's not fair.  Because the people from the other side of the river aren't allowed to cross it.

Which got me thinking...about "those" people.  Those people I was afraid of, walking through our campsite, needing our stuff - maybe badly enough to hurt us.  Those people who are tempted to cross their country's shallow-river-border, not because the sign says not to, but for a chance to live where they can find work, or safety, or education, or opportunities to pursue their dreams.     

And I felt sad for them, and foolish, and like a jerk for having been afraid.  

Pulling into the mandatory border patrol check on our way home, my youngest son tried to hide under his blanket. We answered quickly and confidently that all of our passengers were U.S. citizens and we were bid a good day.  I wondered how many little boys have passed through that same checkpoint, or others like it, hiding under blankets with their hearts in their throats. 

I'm not a politician and I don't have an immigration policy, but I know that compassion needs to be the foundation.  It's not black and white and walls.  It's people.  People born on the other side of a river, which in many places, is no wider than the street you live on.   

*I wrote some song lyrics about this at our campsite, but didn't have a guitar or melody.  So, my 8-year-old helped me record the words down at the river, where it (and this post) was inspired.  You can join me there, here.  

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