"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Borders and Slinkies

Wednesday night I gave a reflection about how life on the border for a middle schooler is like a slinky. The kids with whom I work are constantly going back and forth...

...moving between childhood and adulthood: that awkward time known as adolescence. Struggling with peers, school, family demands, and hormones.

...constantly switching between Spanish and English. English at school, Spanish at home, and a mixture of the two at our program. We encourage our bilingual staff and volunteers to speak English with the kids to get them more comfortable using it in conversation. We have many exchanges with me speaking English, the kid speaking Spanish, back and forth. The kids struggle with homework sometimes, and parents often cannot help with homework, because it is all in English.

...literally moving from here and there--across the border and back. All of our kids have some connection to Juarez, most have family living there. A couple of our kids actually live in Juarez and make the daily trip across the border to go to school. Other kids cannot make the trip across, even though family members can, and even though, for example, their grandpa's funeral is in Juarez. Some only get to go on special occasions. Some don't go at all anymore because of the violence.

...within their cultural identity: am I Mexican? Am I American? Do I conform to the standards of U.S. culture, or maintain the traditions of my family?

At Ciudad Nueva, we serve to build bridges--bridges between the things listed above, things happening within our kids; as well as bridges between the kids and others in the community. Between Mexican-immigrant children and white, 50-year-old, native El Pasoans; between donors who give thousands of dollars and the families making $15,000 per year; between those holding PhD's and those who are struggling to graduate high school; between the rest of the world and the border region.

My year has been full of constant back-and-forth motions from hopelessness to joy. A slinky that rarely stops moving, but that I can only hope is moving in a direction of hope and redemption rather than down the flight of stairs.

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