12.26.2018

on jesus, walls, alms and calvin

At four-twenty this morning, only three days after his last one, Calvin suffered a grand mal seizure. It was a typical one for him, self-limiting with full-body convulsions lasting ninety seconds. After it was over I wiped the blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth from having bitten his cheek or tongue. Watching my son seize is never easy, and would no doubt be terrifying, perhaps even repulsive, for most onlookers to witness, or for any parent to see their own child suddenly suffer. I think about other children who have their seizures at school. I wonder if they're made fun of behind their backs by other kids. I wonder if they are stigmatized and shunned. I wonder if they are thought of as alien in some ways. I wonder if they're walled-off from other kids; no doubt their epilepsy and its impact grossly misunderstood and feared.

On seizure days if Calvin rests, I often read the news and pop in and out of social media. The headlines lately seem to be all about the government shutdown over funding for a border wall. Apparently, Trump supporters are crowd-sourcing its funding, having raised in recent days seventeen-million dollars for the project. The notion sickens me, especially in this season of charity celebrating the birth of Jesus. I'm disheartened by the fearmongering and demonization of good and innocent people desperate in their attempts to find and make a better life here. If not descendants of slaves or indigenous peoples, we Americans came from immigrants. We mustn't be fooled by politicians eager to divide us for personal or political gain. Humans are the same the world over; if not for the accident of birth, we might be fleeing wrecked homelands, too. What claim have we to this land anyway?

In the days between Calvin's seizures, I came across two short pieces most worthy of reading this holiday season, one by a Muslim who attended Catholic high school in California, and another by the author of the outstanding book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The first work expresses its author's love and reverence for Jesus. The second explores citizenship and immigration. The two pieces, which make for a lovely pairing, offer compelling arguments for welcoming immigrants and refugees.

Though raised in a Catholic family, I'm not Christian. Nonetheless, I embrace what the Bible says Jesus preached: unconditional love, compassion, acceptance, charity for the needy, the poor, the afflicted. It upsets me to see and hear so-called Christians maligning other decent human beings. It's hard to see folks hell-bent on erecting a wall to divide us from those who need and bleed the same as we. Like us, migrants are laborers. Like us, they love their children. They want to live a good life, free from poverty, exploitation, oppression, violence. And, yes, they pay billions in taxes. Like immigrants are to some Americans, my boy Calvin is misunderstood and derided by the ignorant for his alleged burden on society. But like Jesus, Calvin embodies the best of humanity, teaching us unconditional love, kindness, charity, acceptance, humility. I ponder the infirm in search of treatment, imagine the migrant seeking refuge. I ask myself and others, what would Jesus do? I doubt he'd champion a fund to build a wall between his people.

In this season of getting and giving, I'm keenly aware of and most grateful for the accident of birth in a nation of plenty to parents who were not poor, disenfranchised or oppressed. I'm thankful for our health, our home, our community, for my husband's gainful employment, for generosity, safety, love, brotherhood and sisterhood. Despite Calvin's suffering and burden, I'm grateful for his purity and affection, and for what his being stirs in me to be and do—to give alms to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and to welcome those who need safe haven, building bridges, not walls, between the world's good people.

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