Mother’s Day, 2022

Due to privacy issues… this was the best I could do. This was the “pharmacy,” where a variety of hygiene products were given out.

I’ve written several Mother’s Day essays and while they are my favorite to write, as they seem to write themselves, every time I sit down to start one, I wonder if there is anything left to say because I’ve said it all. I’ve told the stories about being a mom and a grandma (or a Laudie, as I’m referred to). I’ve written about learning how to mother by the seat of my pants and the deep-seated feeling of love that is so hard to articulate, yet at the same time, the easiest of all because I’m sharing a feeling that’s so familiar. I’ve written about Covid and the restrictions it brought with it and not being able to see my own Mom for a year and a half. This year is different. The piece did not write itself. I struggled to find the right words and stopped several times because I realized there are no right words. I also had to stop to cry. This Mother’s Day piece is for, about and dedicated to a group of women who I really don’t know. I introduced myself to a handful of them, but the rest, I only acknowledged with a smile or a nod of my head because smiles are hard to see behind masks. These are the refugee mothers from the respite center in McAllen, Texas, where I recently volunteered. These are the women who continue to come to mind long after my suitcase was stuffed back into the closet and the final load of laundry was completed. These are the women, who almost 3 weeks weeks later, and often at inconvenient times, still bring tears to my eyes.

After my first morning of volunteering at the respite center, I only wrote one word in the small notebook that went with me everywhere – RESILIENCE.

Merriam-Webster defines “resilience” as:

  1. the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
  2. an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Reading that definition, I’m happy with the word I chose to write down. The mothers I saw, having walked with children, some with husbands, some without, from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and as far as Ecuador and Peru, all fit that definition. Their bodies – strained but determined, were able to set aside their worries and fears while putting their roles as mothers first. I never once saw a mom raise her voice or scold or spank her child, even given the very harsh and cruel circumstances they were under with patience that had to be running thin. This was a group of women, most with young children or even babies, who had journeyed unheard of distances to arrive at the border control in Texas where they were then were detained to determine admissibility into the United States. The centers are not equipped for sleeping so there’s a 12 hour limit, although that rule is no longer adhered to. Hours turn into days and families sleep on concrete floors while waiting to be processed without even a mat because it’s only supposed to be a “day center.” Because of the over-crowded conditions, flu, lice, scabies and chicken pox was easily spread through the children. Food, drink and hygiene products were inadequate, forcing babies to drink out of dirty bottles and wear soiled diapers for days at a time. Once processed, the border patrol bussed the migrants to the center where I volunteered where they stayed for a few days while they waited for their sponsors to provide transportation or money for the transportation to take them to their home where they would wait for their arraignment trail. They were checked at the door for Covid, children included, and vaccinated. I saw the evidence of bandaids on upper arms, especially on the kids, who were eager to show me with pride and stories of how much it hurt. The whole process is extremely confusing and after spending a lot of time learning about it, I’m still not sure I understand the process, but know that the people we saw came through official border crossings, were detained, then came to the respite center a few days later, possibly several. After learning about the condition of the detention centers, seeing moms picking their way through their children’s scalps in search of lice, made sense.

I couldn’t help but think back to my days of traveling with 3 young children and how exhausted I’d be when we’d finally arrive at our destination. We didn’t walk, we usually flew, and we weren’t sleeping on mats lined up on the floor in a large, gymnasium-like room with 150 to 200 others, but rather, we slept in comfy beds. My exhaustion was real but it was also short-lived. The women at the respite center’s challenges had no end in site and the challenges they had already endured were only the beginning. They walked in danger and fear, all while putting the protection of their children first. Women who had access to birth control, went on the pill before their journey north, assuming they would be raped along the way, and given that over half are, that’s a fair assumption. Most of the women who came to the supply area where we would give away toiletries, needed either medicine for stomach issues or headaches – lots of headaches – but before they asked for themselves, they asked for their babies or children, who were feverish, dehydrated or had rashes or stomach issues. These mothers didn’t get a break. It didn’t matter how they were feeling, their children came first. (The dads didn’t go unnoticed by me, but given that this is a post for Mother’s Day, my emphasis is on the mothers). How does a mom answer her child when they repeatedly ask when they get to go home? Or sleep in their bed again? Or play with their toys? How do you help your child navigate uncertainty when you have no idea yourself?

The women I spoke with couldn’t hide their sadness at leaving their country but for their safety and that of their children, they had no choice. I kept thinking about the very large sign that greeted me as I entered the Syrian refugee camp in Greece.

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land

These women were fleeing kidnappers, rapists and murderers. They were protecting their family. They were putting one foot in front of the other and not looking beyond that point. They were doing what they had to do.

I was so happy to see the resiliency of the kids who I played with at the center. Their biggest complaint to me was the pain in their upper arm from the vaccination. It gave them a sense of solidarity with the other kids – whose arm hurt the most. Kids are kids, no matter where they come from or what language they speak. There is no language barrier, especially for the younger ones and play becomes the language. I was grateful for the return of my Spanish, however, and eyes lit up when they realized I could speak their language and at my level, likely sounded like a 3 or 4 year-old, making me even more relatable and/or funny to them. They were adaptable – entertaining themselves with a game of “Go Fish” that grew to 14 kids or building houses with half a dozen blocks from a Jenga game. They were resourceful not only because they had to be at that point, but because they are kids and that’s just what kids do. None of them had laces in their shoes, which were too big to start with, and had to stop periodically to slip their shoe back on while they ran from one place to another because they weren’t allowed to go barefoot in the center. Shoe laces were all removed, adult shoes included, at the detainment center because of the personal harm one could do with them – a rule following an incident, I’m guessing. A few adults asked us for shoelaces, but unfortunately, we didn’t have any to give so they continued to walk around in shoes that flapped with every step unless they were the lucky few who got brand new, still in the wrapper, slippers. We also weren’t able to give everyone clothing that fit because we had a limited supply of donated items to choose from. One mom who keeps coming to mind, had her jeans completely unzipped and was trying hard to pull her shirt down to cover her expanding belly that was protruding above the zipper. I’m guessing she was at least 6 months pregnant. I asked her if she would like me to try and find her some pants that fit better and she responded with an exuberant “YES,” but her kids needed clothes first. I found the kids pants and shirts that were pretty close on size but could only find a men’s medium pair of sweat pants for her. She was petite, as most were, and I apologized for the large size explaining that our stash of pants was getting thin and we were were very limited on choices. She graciously took them and thanked me with appreciation far grander than I expected for a pair of men’s size medium, gray sweat pants .

My gift to a small handful of these women was to be able to occupy their kids, allowing them to close their eyes and put mothering on the back burner, if only for a few moments. The kids were easy to connect with as they were hungry for attention and play. The moms would watch me long enough to know their child was safe then would give me a nod and a smile that was visible even behind their mask. Besides getting Tylenol or baby formula or a toothbrush or clothing for them, playing with their children was really all I could do to help them. It didn’t seem like enough in the grand scheme of things, but it was something and that was better than nothing. It was also a gesture that told them I saw them, I cared for them and I wanted them to feel welcome. I think that mattered more than anything else.

I used to say I’d step in front of a moving train to protect my children and any mom I know has likely said the same at some point, knowing that the scenario would be highly unlikely. Instead, it served more as a metaphor for the distances moms go for their children and the profound love they have for them. These mothers’ acts of bravery and heroism was just about as close to stepping in front of a moving train as I’ve ever witnessed.

Mother’s Day, or Dia de las Madres, in the three Central American triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, is celebrated on May 10th. To these women of strength and resiliency who I’m both awed and haunted by, I’m hoping on Tuesday, May 10th, someone will honor you, compliment you, hug you or watch you kids for a moment. And although you won’t be able to read the words I’ve shared about you as it’s highly unlikely you’d come across them nor are they written in your native tongue, writing them felt important to me. So much of your faces were covered by a mask, but your eyes and your hugs of gratitude said it all. Your strength, your convictions, your resiliency and your patience in the most difficult of situations, will not be forgotten. You were my reset and reminder to stop and recognize what I have, even on the most difficult days and that even after having the curtain pulled back on this reality in our country, it is only the tip of the iceberg and in reality, I still have no idea.

“Hope has two daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
― Augustine of Hippo

The anger feels easier, but anger without the courage to act isn’t enough. Both are necessary. What I saw in these women was courage, but no doubt it was the anger that fueled their journey.

To my own mom, it was through your example that I learned the importance of doing what I can to help others. I was inspired by the volunteer work you did in the schools during your and Dad’s winter months in Texas – so close to where I was.

To the ones in my family who I have the honor of calling you my son-in-law or daughter in-laws, I’m grateful every day that my kids chose you. You belong – like you’ve been in our family forever.

And to my the kids who I birthed and the 3 grandkids you birthed for me – you are my heart, my soul, and the best thing that ever happened to me.

And finally, to all the moms who happen to be reading this, Happy Mother’s Day. I hope you are celebrated well today.

Wrap up – McAllen, TX trip

Wrapping up. Reader alert – this is one of my longer posts as I struggled with editing. It all seemed too important to leave out.

Much of this trip was written about in quick paragraphs on Facebook because I didn’t have my computer with me so was operating off my phone. I hate typing on my phone. Right now I’m in re-entry mode, and even though I didn’t even leave the country, this re-entry seems as significant as when I came back from Ghana or Morocco or Greece, less the jet lag. It was an emotional, educational, frustrating, heart-filled week that I was fortunate to be able to spend with 10 other people who I feel blessed to call my friends now. The shared experiences and emotions made for quick bonds and goodbyes were tearful, sad and stretched out to the airport gates in Dallas, where 5 of us parted for other parts of the country. The five of us with early departures decided that it made more sense to sleep at a hotel near the airport so said our goodbyes the night before. It was nice getting to tuck into comfy beds after showers that had continual hot water and good pressure and being able to flush toilet paper and not dispose of it in the bin by the toilet. That being said, our accommodations in the “dorm” were comfortable and cozy and I think we all adapted quickly as we were familiar with the accommodations from previous volunteer trips. There was an option to stay in a nearby motel, and I had signed up for that option, thinking I’d have more alone time for writing, but when I saw the dorms with the large open living room/kitchen with sleeping rooms on either side of it that housed lines of sturdy bunkbeds, I asked if I could move out of the hotel and into the dorm. It felt familiar – no frills on the lodging, just beds and showers with weak water pressure and iffy hot water. Carolyn, Barbara (our leader) and I were in one bunk room and Sandy and his wife Gail in the other. The remaining 6 were at a the motel, 15 minutes away.

Home sweet home – the “dormitory”
Our transportation

When I think about the past week, it is the faces that come to mind – the worried faces of the parents with the sick baby who Carolyn and I tried to figure out Tylenol dosages for because she was under two and dosing at that age was “ask a doctor.” I think of the woman holding the word search book we had found for her, anxious to get started on her “learning English” or the kids who were so adept at entertaining themselves with a stack of cards or the blocks of a jenga set that became building materials for houses and roads. I think about women in sweat pants rolled down several turns at the waist so they’d fit and over-sized tee shirts because those were the only sizes we could find for them but they didn’t seem to mind. They were just happy to have a new set of clean clothes. I thought about the woman with the zipper of her jeans pulled all the way down to accommodate her expanding pregnant belly and I hoped that someone would find her some of the desperately needed, over-sized sweats. I think about the moms seated in a cluster of folding chairs near other moms, trying to stay awake while watching their kids, in-between brief moments of closing their eyes. Sleep couldn’t have come easily after the mats were rolled out at night in a room the size of a gymnasium (on the days we were there, I’d estimate there were 150 to 300 people, the busiest day being our last). How do you keep your toddler on the mat next to you? How do you keep your baby from crying when they hear the cries of other babies? How do you answer the questions your children continually asked of “when do we get to go home?” How do you try not to look worried, afraid or anxious in front of your children who are counting on you for everything? I think about the beautiful 9 year old girl with long brown pigtails from Guatemala who was going to Atlanta with her mom, younger sister and older brother, to be with their dad who was already there. She told me she wanted to be a police officer because she wanted to help others. She was smart. She helped her mom who couldn’t read and helped translate for her.

Sorting out necessities…
More necessities
The “farmacia” where one could get toothpaste, deodorant, Tylenol, diapers, shave cream and all things in-between
Kids coming up with their own versions of “Ve Pez”… (Go fish)

Although we had several educational sessions during the course of our stay, it’s an extremely complicated issue and I realized how much I don’t know or understand. Ann Cass, the director of Projecto Azteca, helped educated us on the complicated border issues as well as the needs of underserved areas of Hidalgo County, where 33% are living in poverty. What we learned was difficult and eye-opening and I had to continually remind myself that I was in the United States, and not a developing country. Even with explanations in my native tongue, I’m still not sure I totally understand the process that the refugees we met had gone through and the steps that were still ahead of them. How were they able to process and understand the enormity of it all when English wasn’t even their first language? What I do know is that the people we volunteered with all came through legal check points – they did not swim across the Rio Grande that separates parts of the United States from Mexico, nor did they climb over or dig under the large imposing wall. They came legally and all had sponsors who had agreed to house them temporarily as well as provide financial aid to pay for their journey to locations all over the country. They had traveled very long distances, mostly from the Northern Triangle of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. I met one family who had made the journey from Peru, and heard about families from Cuba and different parts of Africa. I only met one family traveling from Mexico.

I was reunited with Dee Dee and Mimi, who I met while volunteering in Morocco. It was a very special reunion for the 3 of us and I have no doubt there will be many more. Dee Dee reminded us that although they had traveled for weeks or even months, the people we were helping had only just begun their journey and still had a very rough road ahead. The factors are complicated and I know the words “immigration” and “refugees” and “border control” are political hot buttons, making the issues even more inflammatory. Immigration reform is necessary and long overdue but my focus this past week was on the humanitarian leg of the situation – the people and their struggles, the children and their fears, the parents and their remarkable resilience – helping with the most basic of needs while trying to restore human dignity to this group of people.

Dee Dee and Mimi – making work fun… always…

Midway into the week, I got a text from my daughter with a photo of her almost 5 year old son, at a restaurant sitting behind a glass of orange juice bigger than his head. Given the many children I had played with earlier that day, many my grandson’s age, the photo gave me pause. My grandson is on spring break with his parents and two year old sister. He’s almost 5. He won’t have to worry about where he’s going to sleep when he gets home or if he’ll have a home to go to. He doesn’t have to worry if kids will understand him at school because he speaks a different language. He doesn’t have to worry if his parents will even be able to find a school for him to attend. I looked at that photo, like so many she texts to me, but the timelines of it held so much weight. “Hug your kids, I responded…then hug them some more and be grateful for the name of the country that’s written on the front of your passport.” She understands because she’s volunteered in Peru with me. The big poster on the wall in the Syrian/Afghan refugee camp where I volunteered, kept coming to mind:

“No one puts their children in an unsafe boat in dangerous waters unless the water is safer than the land.”

And to that I’d add my own words,

“No one walks with their children through dangerous countries, with only the clothes on their back, and not knowing what they will be waling into, unless the place they are leaving has become too dangerous to stay.”

Our group also volunteered with Projecto Azteca – a non-profit self help construction company that serves the underserved populations of Hidalgo County. It was though this organization that Ann Cass was the director of, that gave some of us the job of painting the house of the elderly couple in Mercedes, TX, a half hour away from where we were staying. This is an organization that focuses on the colonias – the unincorporated and rural areas of the county. The families in need put their own sweat equity into the homes built. Because this couple was elderly and the wife somewhat immobile, we were able to provide the “sweat equity” hours for them. It was hard work in hot weather on rickety ladders with a lot of trash and dogs to work around, but I’m proud of the work our team of 5 accomplished. We didn’t completely finish the painting but were about 85% done when we ran out of time. We skipped the 105 degree day due to safety issues. Sore neck and shoulders aside, and still picking random splatters of paint off of my arms and hands, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was such a good, supportive group – holding ladders for each other becoming just as important as the laughter we shared to get us through the job. We all gained just a little more respect for soffits, joints that need caulk and the difficulty of painting a light color over bright blue paint.

The beginning of making a blue house gray…

On our last afternoon, we drove around in search of a section of the wall that we could get close enough to touch. It was an odd request that we gave our director, but one that felt very important to all of us. Although we had all seen photos of the wall, that wasn’t enough. Standing by such an imposing and daunting man-made structure was emotional on so many different levels. We saw where the wall ended in one spot, butting up to a 3 foot chain link fence, obviously the spot to cross if one was making an illegal crossing into the US. We also saw ladders. The ones who chose to cross in that manner would likely be picked up in the towns that were close to the wall. There was a new housing development next to one of the portions of the wall we drove by, their view being of the wall itself. The development was called “Esperanza” or “Hope” in English. The irony was striking. Being able to see the iron structure that separated “us” from “them” felt like a necessary part of all of our journey and was timely to see on our last afternoon after having learned more about policy and procedure. Now we had faces and personal stories to accompany it.

Looking at Mexico on the other side of the Rio Grande
Fence transition to low chain link fence…

While waiting at the airport in McAllen for our flight to Dallas, I saw a mom and her three boys, who looked to be in the age range of 4, 6 and 8. The boys were all holding hands and looked both tired (it was 6:30 am) and nervous. The mom was making her way over to a small coffee stand for snacks with all 3 in tow. I saw her purple plastic envelope with the papers that all the adults at the respite center had. I noticed it because on one side of the stack of papers inside the translucent envelope, was a sign that in big letters said, “ I DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH….” followed by a few other sentences that I was never close enough to read. The boys had bright yellow blankets that I had also seen at the respite center. When they made their way back to their chairs with their snacks, I went over to her and told her I had been volunteering at the respite center the past few days. I asked her the same questions I had asked so many – Where are you from? Where are you going? When did you arrive? And in Spanish she told me she was from Ecuador and was going to Brooklyn, where she had family. She and her boys had been at the respite center for 4 days. I wished her buena suerte and with those words, she reached up and hugged me. This is why I do this work. I get far more out of it than I ever can give.

Out of our group of 11, 5 came down with a bug, one necessitating a trip to the hospital emergency room where I sat with her in the small, curtained off room in the ER while she received fluids through an IV. It was early in the morning, and I had only had a couple of house of sleep because we had spent part of the evening earlier at a quick care clinic. When it was decided that she needed more than what the quick care clinic could provide, we left in the early morning hours to go to the ER. In my haste, I had thrown on a sweater over my pajamas and grabbed my shoes and backpack. Only in the light of day, as we were leaving the hospital, did I realize how ridiculous I looked and taking the extra 2 minutes to change into clothes would have been a good idea. We also had one of our team break her ankle when she fell into a small hole in the parking area where the van was parked. This same person had a tooth extracted on day 2. There was so much concern and support offered to those with stomach issues, sore throats or learning how to maneuver crutches. The genuine love and concern this group of people showed one another tugged at my heart more than any other volunteer trip I’ve been on. I miss them, every one of them, already. This morning I woke up with a slight fever and sore throat, catching whatever it was that was going around (fortunately, not Covid). It was impactful work we were doing and I know that plays as much of a part in our physical well being as the emotional.

Now that I’ve returned to the comforts of home, is when the real work begins. Education about immigration needs to continue and stories that have faces attached to them, need to be told. My hope is that my words will be read with the emphasis on the humanitarian side of this and not the political side. They are difficult problems and we need to be realistic, but the importance of not losing site of the individuals who make up the numbers, is essential. The fact that today is Easter, a day of transformation and promise, whether recognized through a religious platform or not, has not gone un-noticed by me. It was a short week with long days and was nothing short of incredible. It will take time for me to absorb the enormity of it while determining how I can make productive use of the emotions I’m feeling now.

Thank you to Global Volunteers and our incredible leader, Barbara, for bringing all of this into my life.

Early morning airport goodbyes to these incredible women.
Finding the hope.

Volunteering – without my passport

When my daughter, Emery, and I returned from a volunteer trip in Perú several years ago, the immigrations officer in Newark, NJ seemed bored. He wanted to chat. There were only a few of us in line so he had nothing but time. It was 6:00 a.m. and Emery and I had been flying all night and were exhausted. We didn’t want to chat. Because we had been gone for over a month, I expected a few questions before being waved through pertaining to the nature of our visit.

“How long were you in Perú? What exactly were you doing there for so long? Where else in Perú did you go?”

Standard questions. But then he added, “Have you ever thought about volunteering in your own country? There are plenty of people and places here that could sure use you and your daughter’s help.” He paused and looked up at me as if to say, “well… what’s your answer?” I felt reprimanded by the man in the kiosk. And judged.

I was tired but I didn’t want to be detained further because I irritated him, so I responded with a kind, “We will look into that, and thank you, Sir!” To which he moved us through. Had I not been so tired and so careful about not upsetting him, I would have chatted about my world views, my curiosity with other cultures and my love of travel, especially when passports are involved. But instead, I gave my prompt thanks for the advice, and Emery and I moved quickly through the kiosk and onto to customs, where they only cared about whether we were carrying illegal substances from Perú, and not the nature of our visit.

I’ve thought a lot about the officer’s question at immigration and a few other people have asked me the same question regarding my volunteering. Why leave the country when there’s so much need here? Valid question.

Volunteering all over the world has given me a global vision and has shown me the connections that we all share regardless of borders. Mothers worry about their children whether in a 8 x 8 curtained off room in a makeshift refugee compound or in their home on my street in Boulder, Colorado. Kids are proud of their artwork whether using expensive paints and paper or the backs of packing materials with one shared crayon. Parents want their kids to be polite and thankful whether with their abundance or lack thereof. Fundamentally we are all the same. We need each other. We need people to notice us and care about us. We need to be seen and we need to be loved.

I knew the difference I was making during my volunteer time wasn’t easily measured and sometime was as fleeting as a quick smile or a kiss on the cheek – moments in time. That’s all. I haven’t saved lives or given people a better place to live or helped them feel safe. But I did add moments of levity and laughter that maybe would spark a memory later. I gave manicures to the hard-working hands of Peruvian women that were rarely (if ever) pampered and painted. I held small children in an orphanage in Morocco that were the size of toddlers who couldn’t sit, stand or speak but responded to my gesture with their eyes. I made repairs to school uniforms in Ghana that were so ragged that the wearers held them together with an arm or a hand for modesty reasons. I tested hundreds of children’s eyes in various countries and later got to see some of those kids proudly wearing glasses. I say “I” but with the exception of holding children in the orphanage because it was a one person job, it was always a “we” – a we of people who have changed my life forever in the way they saw and responded to the world. None of this was world changing, but maybe moment changing.

The more important reason I take long flights to places very far away is to learn more about the people and their cultures. I believe that if we can learn about people who live differently from us with regards to their religions, laws, customs etc., won’t that help us to be more understanding with people who are different from us in our own country? In our state? On our streets? I had a friend once ask me if I was scared being around so many Muslims after I returned from volunteering in Morocco. Afraid? No, I wasn’t afraid. The better word would have been inspired. We form ideas about people and their cultures that are quickly dispelled when meeting in person, when we find our common ground, regardless of what the media tells us. Getting to meet people with such a strong dedication to their Muslim faith – and is the 2nd largest religion in the world next to Christianity, was eye-opening to me. We only hear about the radicals and not the classroom filled with young adults, so eager to learn English, or the cab drivers who went out of their way to keep us safe or the women in the Hammam who helped us let go of our modesty and embrace the tradition of joining a roomful of naked women for a weekly ritual and scrubbing. Those are the people I now associate with Muslims. If I can impart even a tiny morsel of the lessons learned when I return home, then my success with volunteering outside of my country will extend far beyond the fleeting smile or the kiss on the cheek. It’s uncomfortable when people are different from what we know – in their customs, their dress, their religion, their world views. I’m trying to find my own piece of comfort in the discomfort of the unknown.

The question of fear also came up for me before volunteering in a Syrian/Afghan refugee camp in Greece. Wasn’t I afraid? Of the place or the people? I did have to clarify that I was not actually going to Syria to volunteer, which I would have most definitely been afraid of. But the people? Who fled? The mothers and fathers who put their children on an unsafe raft and traveled great distance because the place they were leaving was so dangerous? Those people opened up my heart and left me with a lump in my throat that had me holding back tears for the duration of stay. I’m guessing it’s the word “Syrian” people fear, not the actual people.

That’s my rambling explanation as to why I feel the need to leave my borders to volunteer – to enhance my understanding of the world and our place in it. Add to that, my curiosity of cultures, so great that it became my major in college, never realizing at the time that all the cultural anthropology classes I took would become such a gift to me later. Oh, and I love to travel.

That being said, I’m leaving in a few days for my first volunteer trip since the spring of 2019 and I’m not bringing my passport. I’ll be working in an underserved area in southern TX near the Mexican border. This isn’t about politics or policy – just people. This time, I won’t be able to say, “yes, but at least this isn’t going on in the United States….” I’m sure I’ll learn things, see things and experience things that will make me angry, discouraged and sad, but also, as with all my other volunteer trips, I’ll come away with an even greater sense of gratitude that what I left with. Stay tuned.