Saludos Mi Familia de San Vicente de Pablo,
While teaching me how to make tortillas from their home country, my new friends (a father and child) shared why and how they fled to the US. Out of respect for their friendship, privacy, and security, I’ll give non-identifying details, but here’s what I’d like you to know — there was…
A water crossing.
And I heard it from the mouth of a six-year-old with whom I’ve been playing Uno and soccer for the past few weeks. He’s hyper. He’s funny. He hates to lose. He’s expressive like a little cartoon character. As he shared, the words from his mouth cut against his sweet, little voice. He was afraid, beyond afraid. With eyes wide and an increase in the speed of his speech, he recounted more detail than his father seemed to have wanted.My stomach started clenched and my breath shallowed. He talked about the actual crossing. Terrifying. He grabbed his dad’s shirt and pulled closer, “But I was with my Pa.” He said with a bend in his tone from fear to assuredness. It surprised me. It didn’t necessarily change the terror of his journey, but he had this tremendous confidence in his father.
I wouldn’t change this encounter for anything. It was a time of sacred connection and the start of a deeper friendship. But it’s haunting me. I’d never heard a child speak of violence, life-threatening danger, and their father like a literal superhero. It’s a privilege to be in this space and be somewhat trusted. But a sliver of me wishes I’d never heard that ugly truth come out of a child’s mouth.
Yet, the Gospel calls us to sit in the muck and the pain and the reality with one another.
Later that night, I laid in my bed and cried.
His adorable voice, over-the-top expressions, and horrific journey ricocheted around my head and heart. And I thought of the times I had been afraid, and my dad was there for me — whether it was taking care of some jerk at my waitress job in late high school or doing different voices while reading Harry Potter before bed — I thought of my assuredness in him. And then I thought about God, our Father, who doesn’t abandon us during our journeys, who sustains us through times of difficulty — just like my friend did with his child (and is still doing with his child).
I need to have the same confidence in God that my little friend has in his Pa.
And just while we’re on the subject. Migrant parents who protect their children in those kinds of conditions —that’s holiness.
Tinamarie Stolz is a Campus Minister at St. Joseph’s University and a parishioner at St. Vincent De Paul in Germantown. She is spending the summer at the Oakland Catholic Worker in Oakland, California. Check back for more updates.