leaving home

Every day I hear or see something that reminds me how much we, as Americans, take for granted in this place we call home. 

Yesterday, the reminder was a social media comment about refugee and immigrant children being torn from their parents—even an infant suckling at her mother's breast—and being thrown in cages and behind detention fences. An acquaintance posted her opinion on the matter saying, "A loving mother would not put her child in the situation that would cause them to be parted. A selfish mother would play that game."

Her comment reminded me of those contemptuous folks who love to throw around the flabby platitude, race card.

I told her that if she spoke to some of the mothers fleeing other nations she would learn how wrong she is.

Later, while I was watering a parched garden, it occurred to me how spoiled some of us living in this nation are. We enjoy so many luxuries people in other countries only dream of—indoor plumbing, heated homes, fifty-seven million kinds of breakfast cereals, chips, wine, beer, coffee, tea, candy, cheese to choose from. Many of us have pets, cars, bicycles, warm clothes, cozy beds, doctors, medicines, computers, smart phones, jewelry, handbags, toys, sports equipment, table linens, gas stoves, porcelain sinks and bathtubs, pillows, wool blankets, shoes for every occasion, safe streets, good hospitals, nice restaurants, decent schools. Even so, we hunger for the newest apps, trendiest fads and latest gadgets.

What seems clear to me is the abysmal lack of imagination and compassion in the minds and hearts of those who condone the hasty and horrific separation of children from their parents—families who have left their homes and communities risking their lives to make it to a nation where life might be safer and better for their families. 

As with most trying situations, I think of Calvin. I imagine living in a country where Calvin has no access to medical care or treatment for his seizures. I imagine his epilepsy burning out of control and bringing him to the brink of death. I imagine a neighboring and prosperous nation offering great promise in treating his condition. What would I do? Might I risk fleeing to that land for the sake of my child's life? Perhaps I would. 

I then imagine living in a war-torn country where good people are extorted, children are regularly kidnapped and forced into sex work, gangs and militias, where mothers and daughters are raped, where food and water are scarce, where neighborhoods are gassed and shelled, where men are murdered, where homes and towns are burned to cinders. Might I leave home with my children to a neighboring and prosperous nation, leaving everything behind and risking it all for a chance at living free from fear and near-certain peril? Yes, I think I would.

When having a similar exchange on social media last year, a friend told me that he would not be a refugee because, "it is not in his upbringing or heritage" to do so. He went on to explain that he would not flee his homeland, but instead would remain to "make it better." Perhaps it is easier for folks to imagine this strategy having had no children. Or perhaps some suffer from an inability or unwillingness to imagine the grim reality of living in a war zone. Or maybe there are other factors which, though I've racked my brain to unearth, convince some that protectionism in the form of cruel and unusual treatment of children is how we as Americans should roll.

Today I read my friend's blog, a moon worn as if it were a shell. In it she posted a poem she'd read on another blog. She asked her readers to pass it on:


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it's not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did -
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side
with go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage -
look what they've done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child's body
in pieces - for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don't know what
i've become.

~ Warsan Shire

I don't know what the answer is to our immigration dilemma. I do know it is wrong, harmful and dangerous to separate these children from their parents. And though I am not Christian or religious, I dig what Jesus preached and do agree with every word that Father James Martin has to sayWe need to show humility, love and compassion for those fleeing the scourge of gangs, extortion, murder, rape and starvation in neighboring and faraway nations. They are our fellow human beings. At the very least they deserve loving kindness and dignity.


  1. Thanks for that Christy, I couldn't agree more.

  2. I don't think this is related to (not) having children. It is, as you state, a "lack of imagination and compassion in the minds and hearts." This also is responsible for many other things going on.

  3. Your friend who said it was not in his upbringing or heritage to become a refugee - is he Native American? Is he White? If the answers are NO and YES, his ancestors did immigrate voluntarily to the US - they were either economic or political or religious refugees. Why do such people forget that their ancestors were no different (other than skin color) from the desperate people now at the border?
    US failed foreign policy in Latin American countries disrupted their development and contributed to the economic and political failures making people flee.

  4. Amen, amen, amen. And a million times more, amen

  5. How anyone can think leaving home for another is a CHOICE??? These people KNOW they are taking a huge risk but it's the only hope they have! The rampant lack of compassion, kindness, understanding and of a desire to LEARN about others (not to mention the truth) is so heart crushing to those of us still in possession of a soul.

  6. I have no more words. It seems that we are actually already IN the beginnings of fascism.