Today I met “Gloria”. She illegally crossed the border from Mexico into the United States of America when she was thirteen years old. She has spent the past twenty years living in a makeshift neighborhood called a colonia,1 located ten minutes inland from the Starbucks, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and shopping malls that populate McAllen, TX.
She is now the mother of three children, all US citizens, but she dares not apply for legal status herself as this would undoubtedly result in being sent back to Mexico. “Don’t go to work”, they plead. But she must work, cleaning horses at a local ranch for $150 a week, she is one of the few who can find consistent employment to provide food and pay for the plot of land on which they live. A plot that came with rudimentary sewage and electricity but also exorbitant monthly interest rates. There is no shortage of people looking to capitalize on her desperation.
Her daily life is one of fear and endless anxiety. Each day could be the last day she ever sees her children. What keeps her going is knowing that they are getting an education and will one day graduate.
The local church does what it can. They provide meals to the colonias when they have the resources and though it is illegal to shelter anyone who has made it across the border, the churches leave scrap building materials on their lot to be picked up by whomever.
Gloria’s church provided the resources to expand her dilapidated trailer into a home on cinder blocks. It’s not much, but it has four walls and a shingled roof. In her backyard is a 15 foot PVC pipe, the length of her old trailer. She keeps it visible to always remind her of how things used to be.
Gloria is 1 of 11,000,000 who have come to America without authorization in the past 25 years. This number has grown in correlation with the tyranny and oppression increasingly leading to parts of Mexico becoming a fully realized dystopia. The only possibility for hope is to risk one’s life crossing the border so the next generation will have something to live for.
Yesterday Gloria received a turkey for thanksgiving from a church that handed out frozen turkeys to 600 families. Today she was greeted by an elderly couple in her colonia that had no turkey for Thanksgiving. Gloria immediately gave them hers.
Perhaps there is a lesson we can learn from Gloria. We, with our inherited assurances, bright futures, and full barns… tomorrow is never promised, so better take care of our neighbor today.