Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in “Called to the Wall,” the annual Lenten Via Crucis pilgrimage to the U.S. – Mexico border in support of immigrants that is co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, and the Anglican Church of Mexico. I’ve never payed much attention to what is happening in the world of immigration, so it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to celebrate the Eucharist at the border as one community in Christ.
This was my first time at the border, and in a way it felt like the people on the other side were in jail. I couldn’t help but wonder what it felt like to them. We were all at the border for the same reason, to celebrate the love of Christ, but we couldn’t physically celebrate the Eucharist together because of a physical barrier. I began to think about the barriers we put up in our own lives that prevent us from sharing God’s love with one another. I think fear is the biggest barrier in my life. I fear what will happen if I stop and talk to the homeless man on the street who looks like he could use a conversation just as much as he could use a hot meal. I am scared to talk to people from other races, religions, and cultures about their life because I’m afraid I will say something stupid or offensive. I think a big part of my EUIP year has been learning how to combat this fear in order to live in communion with others.
It was especially powerful to experience this day with fellow EUI Edgar. On the way home he told us the story of how his family crossed the border. He also told us about some of the difficult times his family has gone through as a result of them being immigrants to this country. I am grateful that EUIP has opened doors for me to have experiences like this and conversations with people who don’t have the same background as I do.
At the beginning of the Eucharist, we prayed, “Strengthen us to welcome those from other lands, cultures, and religions, that we may live in human solidarity and in hope. Give us courage to open the door to our neighbors and grace to build a society of justice so that we may proclaim the undying love of our Savior Jesus Christ.” It is our job as children of God to be welcoming to our neighbor, but how many of us actually practice this in our everyday lives? How many of us continue to live in our own little worlds because we feel safe and comfortable? I think we forget that Jesus was an immigrant – from heaven to earth.
Los Angeles. A place full of opportunity. A place teeming with desire. A place that welcomes all. I have only lived here for a short amount of time. Seven months to be exact. When you move to a new city, especially one the size of LA, feeling overwhelmed is almost an inevitability. More times than not, what’s needed for this feeling to be quenched is simply TIME. It takes time spent in this new place of residence to get comfortable with it and to understand it and to explore it and to find what it has to offer and what it doesn’t. Living in a big city is not easy to get used to, but it’s possible. It just takes patience and a heart of exploration to truly thrive. All that being said, that’s just for you: the individual.
Here’s a scenario for you. You move to a city, and you have a great time getting to know it. You love it. You give it time to teach you new things. You expect things out of it. You work with and for it. You’re now months in and have fallen for the city. It offers you so much of what you’ve wanted for a long time now. Not only do you fall for the place, but it’s the people as well. You have made relationships, and still are making them; whether at work or in your community. These relationships have now given you more purpose and created a new dynamic in your life in the city. Not only do you have to cultivate your individual self in this new place you love, but you also have to nurture these new-found relationships. You love them just as much as the city.
What am I getting at here? We are humans. We have incredible brains and bodies. However, as awesome as we are, we need balance. We need priorities. We need boundaries. And all of these need to be in healthy states. To have these in healthy states we must make healthy choices. Here’s an example as to why this is so important: I am highly interested in attending an event in the city that I believe will grow me as a person. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. Unfortunately, that same night, a dear friend of mine, who I have been desiring a deeper connection with, wants to hang out, and this night is the only night he/she has time for a while. At the same time, a group of people I love have something going on that highly interests me as well on that same night. So now I have three choices on the same night, and each thing means the world to me. What do I do?
In a city like this, with so much in front of you, it’s important you give yourself space, and time, and slack. If you don’t, you may, like I have many times already, find that you’ve piled on so many arrangements and said yes to so many people without remembering you already have prior engagements, that now you have to make a choice that could hurt or offend someone by backing out. So, be mindful of your yes’s, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Prioritize ahead of time so that your “yes” is yes and your “no” is no. It may hurt sometimes, but it’s better to be clear and blunt upfront than dance around “maybe”s and, even worse, back out of your “yes” and lose credibility from your loved ones.
Voices of Service
These are reflections from corps members and alumni of Jubilee Year and the Episcopal Urban Intern Program. They cover topics ranging from the sun, fun and friends in in Los Angeles to the uncensored experiences of serving vulnerable populations in our beautiful city. These are Voices of Service. For more, go through our archives below