While trying to stay within the lines and not tearing the the pictures of baby Moses in the weeds with my crayon in Sunday school, I remember hearing that if you talk up the fact that you did a good deed, points get deducted from your naughty or nice permanent record. So, I’m going to take a minute to talk up the artwork created by Debbi McCullough,
my artist and activist cousin who (among other good deeds) makes art from trash discarded by immigrants in the desert. The faces mounted in shoes and tuna fish cans which the travelers carry and drop along the way. Behind the faces in the cans are pages from the Spanish Bible. The sculpture on top is mounted on a section of cactus and in memory of the five people last month who received a death sentence for trying for a better life crossing the desert between Tucson and Nogales. Her work is beautiful and puts a human face on the tragedy of desperation.

I come from a family of do-gooders. It’s true. That phrase has been tarnished of late by hateful folks who spit do-gooder out with scorn while stockpiling ammunition, but that’s what we are. In order to do my small part in the world of inequities, in April 2008, (this is the part that’s going to get me the point deduction) I checked a box to make a monthly donation to an organization Women for Women International, a flagrantly do-gooder group that is worth mentioning despite the fact that I’m a small contributor.

This organization provides an allowance for women in desperate situations to help get back on their feet. It connects each do-gooder with one woman, translates letters, and distributes the checks. The first woman I was connected to was and Afghan widow, I wrote to her and sent her a picture of my daughters and me in April 2008, but I never heard back. Monthly when I saw the $27 hit on my credit card, I’d wonder if she and her two children were even alive.

And then out of the blue (or out of the mailbox, as it were), I received a new partner abroad. Her name is Anastasie and she lives in D.R.Congo in a refugee camp where she has been since 1997. She is married and was born in 1969. She and her husband have two children ages 4 and 4 months. Under my cozy desk lamp, in my dry and warm house, compliments of the internet, I was able to search images of Mugunga Camp II. I studied Anastasie’s letter and the translation. So, I looked up the phrase “jina lake” in Swahili to find that it means: name is (seems to work for my name is, her name is, his name is).

Somehow these images came together for me this weekend, voices from a wilderness of need and insecurity — travelers who remind us to be grateful every time we turn on a water faucet or a light switch. Last week I also had to get my auto license tag renewed and had to stand in the inevitable line — I even took a minute out to be thankful that I had a line to stand in, one that moved and ultimately worked. I didn’t have to pay a bribe or a coyote to be legal.

We are all travelers looking for that place called home, that place where Frost reminds us “they have to take you in.” But for too many, there is no one to take them in, no one left or never was. And that rather than building walls to keep those travelers out, isn’t it safer for everybody if simply, in whatever way we can, we help one another along the way?

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