“Aren’t you afraid they’re going to take your stuff?”
Someone recently asked Karina this question when she said she’d been taking asylum seekers into her home.
The temperatures here in El Paso have been below freezing multiple nights in a row. Fountains are covered with icicles and yet dozens of migrants have been left shivering under thin Red Cross blankets as they lay along the sidewalks at the local Greyhound station waiting to for busses to their host families and relative’s houses.
Many of the asylees are young women, small children, and elderly people. Those are the ones Karina checks for on her multiple trips to the bus station each night - the most vulnerable.
She and a handful of other activists have been taking migrants into their homes in the evenings so they don’t have to brave the elements unhoused. Food and clothing donations are wonderful, and many people in El Paso have been dropping those items off at the Greyhound, but sometimes four walls are the most important offering one can give… yet so few do.
Why? Well, because of the question that was posed to Karina this week. What if they take something, break something, disrupt my peace?
And I get it. Not everyone is called to prolife hospitality, but Karina is. I know this because her response to that person was, “Ha! There’s nothing to take.” She said it with a chuckle since it was self-deprecating, but also true.
She’s a person of modest means. So are the handful of others taking people in. They don’t have big, lavish houses. Many live in one to two bedroom, one bathroom casitas. Yet, as I write this, there are 7 people on the other side of the wall, all sleeping on makeshift cots and rearranged mattresses out in the living room. A living room that is half occupied by the massive amount of donations we got this month for the Stellar Shelter, so that’s how many people fit even with this small room at half capacity.
It can be done.
I sometimes feel sad for people in big houses full of nice things. Nice things come with an unseen burden… a burden to protect your investment. But when you have so little, there’s room for so much more. And tonight this house is full of just enough.
Just enough laughter from the children who started playing together once their bones finally thawed out. Just enough cheerful conversation between the mothers who were so happy to be out of the cold and could finally rest knowing their babies would be safe and comfortable for at least the next few hours. Just enough hot chocolate and warm chicken soup that Karina’s mom offered to everyone as they arrived.
Tonight, this living room became full of something so much better than “nice things,” it was filled with wonderful people, and a shared humanity.
And even if there is something here worth taking, no one will, because tonight Karina’s family treating each person who walked through that door like an old friend. And when people have been ignored, degraded, and treated like they’re invisible for as long as so many of these kind people have, they don’t take those connections - that friendship - for granted. When they are finally seen, cared for, and loved, they return that same respect ten fold, and don’t take things beyond what is generously offered.
We could all learn so much from the beautiful humanity I’ve witnessed from those on both sides of the border this week. It’s caused me to want to strive to acquire less and love more... to remember that we are given much so we can give much.