I Don’t Hate You… It’s Everybody Else

Last week, I heard Father Gregory Boyle share a beautiful, inspiring talk at Plywood Presents on kinship. He proposed that if kinship were the goal, we wouldn’t be chasing justice, but celebrating it.

He told powerful stories of his work at Homeboy Industries and the beauty of watching rival gang members work together. He admitted that when they discovered they’d be working alongside enemies, they eventually agreed but always with the caveat that they would not speak to their new co-worker.

But friendships were made because, as he said, “It’s impossible to demonize people you know.”

I was deeply struck. I am a firm believer that diversity in relationships is one of the most powerful ways to facilitate real change in our individual hearts as well as in our world. Father Boyle’s statement is one of the main reasons why.

When it comes to immigration, there are heated and impassioned conversations about “immigrants” or “illegals” (a label I extremely dislike). But when a relationship exists, it’s rare to see a heart unchanged. Words soften. Complexity is acknowledged. Solutions are sought.

I was reminded of this reality when I read Bronwyn Lea’s story online. She and her husband are South African, living in California, working in specialized fields and applying for green cards with fingers crossed.

I am so grateful for her sharing her heart, and I think it’s imperative to have perspectives that remind us how broad and diverse the immigration issue truly is.

The reader comments again affirmed that as people hear relatable stories, they respond with compassion. However, there was often a disclaimer saying essentially, “Well, it’s not you we have concerns about, it’s these others…” Insert broad labels and stereotypes here.

I imagine there are immigrants who come to this country with drugs in their pockets and ill intent in their hearts. I personally haven’t met them, but maybe I run in the wrong circles.

I have met families who arrived by crossing the border, but this illegal act did not speak for their entire character. Many were fleeing desperate poverty and seeking a future that, even if lived in the shadows, meant life for their family.

Maybe before I knew these immigrants, I could not understand even that reasoning. But again, “it’s impossible to demonize people you know.”

Please know I am not saying that knowing someone makes everything they do ok. I still believe whole-heartedly our immigration system is broken. People should not be living in the shadows. It’s not good for the country, and it’s not best for the families.

But as we continue to build relationships and truly listen to the hearts of people and the realities of their stories, my hope is we will keep compassion at the forefront of the conversation. I pray we can find kinship and celebrate justice together.

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  1. This is beautiful, Sarah. I love how you and Billy live for and love others. Father Greg definitely made me cry listening to him, and listening to how he loves. I hope some day I learn to love how he does!

    1. Thanks, Gisele. I was so inspired by Father Greg. His life and love reminded me what was truly important. And man is that guy quotable! He has a lot of wisdom to share...

  2. I love love Father Greg - and I wish I had been there! His book Tattoos on the Heart is one of my all-time favorites :-)

    1. He has lived an inspiration life and he is an incredible communicator. I've heard good things about the book. I may need to borrow it from you. :)

  3. In this post you articulated so many of my feelings so much better than I ever could have! Our immigration system is definitely broken and my heart aches for the people living in the shadows that are simply trying to do what is best for their families! I'm glad I found your blog!!!

    1. Thank you, Denise. It's so encouraging to know I'm not alone in my thoughts. :) Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!


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