by Rev. Diane Weible
I was listening to a Ted Talk on the way to work about National Public Radio’s “Story Corps” series. The story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel brought tears to my eyes. Oshea killed Mary’s only son in a gang-related shooting. A number of years into his prison sentence, Mary went to meet Oshea, the man who had killed her son. They became friends. He is now out of prison and moved into a home on the same street where Mary lives. She calls him son and says that she never got to see her own son graduate from college, or get married, but she hopes some day to be there for both Oshea’s graduation and his wedding. Oshea thanked Mary for her love and acceptance.
Stories connect us. They remind us of each others humanity. They open us to each others lives in all the ways they are very different, or the same. They make us real. They validate the wide range of all our experiences. When the only story we know is our own story, the world and our understanding of that world stays small, and constricted. When we open our hearts to another person’s story – we also open up to all the realities of our world, and how we are connected to one another.
This week was painful. We learned that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been rescinded and that 800,000 young people have been affected by this one action. As I listened to the story of Mary and Oshea I started to think about the stories of each of the 800,000 children who were brought to this country by others, who did not control the conditions that propelled their communities to here, or how they arrived here.
I began to imagine what their stories must be. If we start to listen to their stories, one by one, what would we hear? Many of these young people call themselves Dreamers. I found myself agreeing with a comment that someone made this week about how all of our young people are Dreamers. In fact I believe all of the people in this country whether here documented or undocumented; whether here by birth or brought to this country by parents; whether Immigrants or Indigenous – we all Dream.
I dream of a world where we stop lumping 800,000 people into a category with a label that dehumanizes like, “Illegal”, and take the time to learn each person’s story. What are the experiences and histories of each of these young people and their communities? How do their stories touch us in such a way that we become better for having shared in their hearing?
What if we don’t stop there – what if we start to take the time to learn as many stories as we can? Our neighbor whom we don’t like very much probably has a story to tell that may give us a different perspective on what we thought we knew. Have we heard a story of our boss or that co-worker sitting next to us and, if so, how has their story shaped us? What is our story that has, and will shape others?
If Mary could take the time to go to prison to speak to the man who killed her son and learn his story—a story that grew into a relationship and changed both their lives forever—can’t each one of us do the same?
DACA is not just an Executive Order signed into law by the previous President. DACA was an attempt to recognize, protect, and provide for members of our communities who are otherwise facing huge barriers to survival and full participation in America. It was an attempt to provide safety and security for 800,000 vulnerable people in the face of a Congress that could not legally solve the immigration issues that plague our country.
Each one of them has a story to tell. Each one of us has a story to tell.
Opponents of DACA may dismiss it as just a Presidential Executive Order that should never have been signed. But DACA is more than that. It is 800,000 stories that connect us to one another and remind us of our shared moral responsibility to honor each persons humanity – and work together to build a more just world through that listening, transformation, and love.