I was mindlessly driving home for just another lunch with family when I saw it. The blue lights from probably ten cop cars. In the middle of this chaos sat a tiny tan car that belonged to the tiny tan man who stood talking on the phone with a look of horror on his face. In that moment, it hit me. In that passing moment of peering into the eyes of a horrified human, it all hit me.
Was it his wife that he was talking to? His daughter?
Was he on a simple run to the grocery store to pick up something for supper when reality came running and pulled him over?
Who even was he? Who was his family?
The questions raced.
I keep remembering this man’s face. The face that shared the same skin tone as my friend of the same race. The friend that I’ve watched shed tears due to the personal effects of deportation that he has been forced to endure.
An eight year old boy enjoying a pool day with his dad. A perfect day until a phone call steals the beauty away. At eight years old, his mom was being taken away. A whole border away. And that is where she would have to stay. Away.
Never to help with homework or just to simply play.
Never to comfort him when things didn’t go his way.
Never to see him compete in high school football.
Never to take that traditional picture with her son before prom.
Never to sit in that seat in the auditorium to watch her son accept one of the
largest scholarships awarded to a member of our senior class.
Never to send him off to college to watch him thrive in his fraternity and 30+ hour work
weeks while crushing a degree in criminal justice.
Never to see any of these things. Never to see his life.
Because that pool day was a real day in the life of Diego.
Diego, my friend.
Diego, the person.
“You hear people talk of the ‘American dream’,” Diego starts, “but when it is so difficult to attain a social security number and paying for everything in cash is your only option, you can’t build credit. You can’t build a life. You can’t build that American dream.”
We are America. We are a nation built on immigrants. Immigrants that have built the beautiful nation that we call home. The nation of freedom. Of opportunity.
I remember conversations with Diego throughout high school that pinpointed my privileged opportunities. The rest of our friends would be mindlessly talking about vacations we had been on. Things we had seen. That’s when Diego would speak up. Except his experiences were much different than ours. In fact, his didn’t exist. No family vacations. No “going out” which Diego said “was just too big of a risk.”
Now I know what you’re probably thinking, because I think it too. It’s illegal. What they are doing is illegal. And I get that. I agree with that. Breaking the law isn’t biblical. It isn’t moral. And Diego, a criminal justice major, doesn’t feel any different.
“My two older brothers are in prison because they broke the law,” Diego shares. “So I choose to go a different way. I believe in following the law.”
The law is the law. And that’s the fact that forces me to question which way America will choose to turn on such a heart-wrenching topic. A political topic, right? But I think that politics involves people. And this is a people topic. A people problem. A problem that runs much deeper than deportation or starvation or any other issue that affects our nation. It stems from the heart.
The heart of all of our hurt stems from the same specimen: the heart of the human race.
The heart that is in a constant chase. For more.
For answers that restore.
For fulfillment in a society that houses resentment.
For satisfaction despite backwards action.
A chase that can be seen in the depths of each human face.
The forward chase to taste and see what is good.
It is the chase we’ve all been on. The chase that is mutually understood.
By the tan. By the white. By the ones from the “hood.”
This is who we are.
Much more alike than we ever imagined from the start.
This is our heart.
This past February, I spent a week in a poverty-stricken village in the heart of Honduras. My eyes registered my heart’s complete shock throughout the entire experience, leaving me with this greater understanding of humanity. I understood why these people wanted more. Why these people wanted out. Why these people grasp for the “American Dream” for their families and future generations. Generations that will be the same as my own children and grandchildren. And yours.
So I ask myself,
Will my child have a best friend such as Diego to share life and laughter
with? To grow up with? To cry with? To learn with? I sure hope so.
What will my children do when they witness a man of tan skin terrified on the side of the street? Will their hearts break as mine did? Will they see the astounding resemblance between themselves and the man from a country somewhere else? I sure hope so.
I don’t know all of the answers. No where close. But I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve been blessed to endure to know what matters most.
We, the people. We matter most. All of us.
The world our children... our grandchildren... will live in is up to us.
I pray that world is a world that will make us rejoice.
It starts with us. It is our choice.
Us. All of us.
NOTE FROM MADELINE: Special thanks to my great friend, "Diego," whose name was changed in the writing of this article in order to protect his family and him. You're the best. Forever thankful for our friendship, bud.