Compassion Bridge

What if, instead of building a Wall, we built a
Bridge? Not a literal bridge, but a Compassion Bridge. What if we reached our hands across a divide and asked each immigrant, “what is your need?”
“What is it you are searching for when you choose to make a thousand-mile trek on foot with your babies to make it to a world you barely know. I read a quote once, which said, “A person does not leave their home to enter the mouth of the whale unless the home they are leaving is more dangerous than the mouth of the whale.” What does it hurt to ask refugees what they are running from, and what they envision they are running to.

Anyone who has had an ancestor come to this country as a free person is the descendant of an immigrant. Whether those ancestors arrived at Ellis Island or not, whether they were white or not, whether they were Christian or not, whether they were male, female, or gay; they were immigrants. Whether they came by boat, plane, bus, or walked across the border on foot, they were immigrants.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty proclaims: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! - The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

The inscription has no reference to skin color, religion, sexual orientation, and especially no reference to valuing the wealthy over the poor; specifically stating, “Give me your tired, your poor”.

The inscription has no requirement that an immigrant arrive alone; one-at-a-time. It asks for “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. I believe that is what our president calls a caravan.

“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” would be the original American settlers (refugees), unwanted refuse from what they called the Motherland. Some were prisoners, others poor indentured servants who only wanted a better way of life. And much like the refugees who come to our shores today, they came with talents and skills, intelligence and creativity that made their newly formed democratic nation a beacon of freedom and ingenuity to the rest of the world.

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” Lady Liberty beacons the homeless to come to her shores. She does not leave them to drown, hopelessly, at sea. She does not leave them to die, alone, in the desert.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty asks us to do just what Jesus asked us to do in the Bible: to be kind to the least of these. He says nothing of separating children from their parents or jailing them for even thinking about following the light from a beacon we set out for them.

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
This is a statement of welcome. It is what we should do, as Americans, fortunate as we are to live in a nation created for those seeking a better life for themselves, regardless of color, race, religion, creed, or wealth.

As an African-American whose ancestors were brought to these shores in slave ships whose names I do not know, from a country I do not know, descendant of great people I do not know; the words on the Statue of Liberty are for me, too. This country was built on the backs of my slave ancestors who brought the same skills, intelligence, and creativity to these shores as immigrants arriving of their own free will to flee persecution and seek a better life for themselves and their children. I have as much a stake in America as the first founders. My people helped to build it.

So, to the immigrants arriving at the border, I offer this Compassion Bridge, and I hope that all Americans, who have been greatly blessed, can each lift their small lamps beside the golden door to help light your way.

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