It was 2008. I had just taken a deep breath and told my story of being undocumented for the first time, in a piece published in Newsweek. I braced for the response, fearful of the backlash. What came first was an email from a woman in my town. She was in her eighties, and stood outside every Sunday with a small group in the main corner of our town, protesting war. Not just a particular war, but all war. She was all about justice and peace.
She had organized a group that helped day laborers in our area and wondered if, being bilingual, and having the history that I have, I might be able to pitch in. She didn’t know that I was in the throes of a painful separation that would lead to divorce the following year and that I had just lost my job. It turned out that she was offering me much more than I could offer her.
I went to a meeting and, later, to a church basement where she and several other retirees served lunches to the out-of-work day laborers in our area. I was asked to give a short introduction to the lunch. So began a long and satisfying association with the group in which I helped organize “know your rights” talks and translated for worker safety training. I learned how to collect responses for a university study on migrant worker conditions and heard heartbreaking stories of people working and then being robbed of their wages by bosses who threatened to call immigration authorities if they complained. I listened to people talk about the pain of being separated from their loved ones by economic need and political unrest. It was some of the most important work I’ve ever done.
The experience made me dream of making the group’s work my life’s calling. But mortgage payments beckoned and children clamored for soccer gear and dinner. (There’s not a lot of money in do-gooding). In the nick of time, just before my savings ran out, I got a “real” job and had to end my Mondays with the Community of Friends in Action. But the wonderful white-haired women (and some intrepid men!) kept at it, showing up through snow to hand out coats and sandwiches and offer a friendly smile to people far away from home.
I still help out from time to time, although not nearly as much as I used to. I sometimes MC their small fund-raisers. I go to their meetings and see their humble balance sheet. I am amazed that they do so much with so little, all of them toiling tirelessly without making a dime for themselves, long after they’ve done more than their part to help the world.
I also sometimes help with their website. Although I’ve been advocating for it for years, they only just let me put a Paypal button on the site. (They’ll giggle that I called them out on this luddite tendency). I’d love to show them that this new-fangled way of giving works, and that more people than they can possibly imagine care that they are making their corner of the world better. In a world where so many people seem to be giving in to their baser instincts, this group can remind us how to live by the better angels of our nature.
Would you take a minute to hit the link below and give anything you can?
They are a 501(c)3 organization, so whatever you give is tax deductible. (They may be wary of Paypal buttons, but they know their way around a 501(c)3 IRS filing process, let me tell you).
Thanks for reading. Would you please re-post and give if you can?