Tonight we are taking Annie to her first peaceful rally to stand alongside the Refugee and Immigrant community of Nashville. This is why.
I gave birth to our daughter, Lucy, in October at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. Nothing went as planned and I’ve never felt more physically traumatized. That is another story, for another day. When I think back to my five day stay at the hospital there are only a handful of redemptive moments that come to mind. My nurse Miriam is one of them.
I’ve never been treated with as much compassionate love and kindness as I was by Miriam. I’ve also never been pushed harder. Twenty-four hours after my c-section, when I still felt delirious from the drugs and the pain of the epidural lingered in my back, she asked me if I had walked yet. ‘Walked? I can’t even urinate on my own,’ I thought. My face must have conveyed my fears.
“Get up,” she said with the authority of a mother who means business, “You have to walk. You have to take a few steps. I’ll help you. But you must get up. Let’s go.”
This is how I started walking and also how I started using the bathroom again.
“I need to take this catheter out of you, but your mind is not letting me. Your mind is not telling your bladder to go to the bathroom. And that is not good for you. I need you to tell yourself you must get up and go to the bathroom. I will help you. Let’s go.”
She patiently stood by my bed as tears rolled down my face and helped me stand. She held my arm as I inched my way to the bathroom, then she took off my underwear for me when I could not take them off for myself.
Her blend of humble love and forceful mothering were my lifelines to healing.
When it was time to leave the hospital, I cried.
I had never before been so intimately cared for by a nurse. She had become a small part of me, a part of my story. I couldn’t imagine not taking her home with me.
Miriam is a Muslim, Somali immigrant.
We will bring Annie to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugees Rights Coalition Vigil and Rally tonight to show our support for the immigrants and refugees calling Nashville home. We will go out of honor and deep gratitude for all the Miriam’s in our community.
This is not political. It’s personal.
It’s not Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Libertarian. It’s not left wing or right wing or any wing.
It’s the way of Jesus. The one who taught us to love the orphan, widow, alien, stranger, sinner. The one who taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
This is not a protest. A protest is intended to draw attention to the things you are against. Protests are important and have historically given oppressed people a voice. Protesting in the face of injustices committed against people and our earth is not only Biblical, it is an inalienable right to draw attention and demand action when the desecration of the Imago Dei is happening.
But this is not that. This is a rally. Miriam Webster dictionary says a rally is, “a mass meeting of people making a political protest or showing support for a cause.”
Tonight we show support for the cause of the immigrant and refugee among us. We join thousands across our city and throw light on the beautiful tapestry that makes up America and positively defines the city of Nashville.
In 2012 Nashville had the fastest-growing immigrant population of any American city. Nashville is the home of the nation’s largest Kurdish population, as well as large numbers of immigrants and refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, Eretria and Bhutan. This isn’t political. This is fact. These are our neighbors. Our nurses.
And I want my neighbors to know that all are welcome. And, that if they need to borrow a cup of sugar or an egg, well, they can knock on my door. It’s not locked.
We are taking Annie tonight because our children are listening. They have been thrown into the chaos and divisive rhetoric of our politics. They ask questions, seek answers and are not blind and deaf to what is happening. They talk about walls and refugees and money and whether you voted for Trump or Hillary every single day at school.
How will we respond?
The Mayor’s Office for New Americans says 30% of students in Metro Schools (of which Annie is a part) live in homes in which English is not the primary language. Yesterday, when I asked her what the best part of her day was, she said it was partnering with a new girl in her class from Africa who doesn’t speak English yet. “I think I taught her a new word mom!” she said excitedly.
As Christ-following adults, we are able to teach our children with empathy, compassion, fear-nots, and a heart bent towards the ‘least of these.’ When you are in a new country, do not speak the language and are starting over with nothing- you are the least of these.
One day we will also teach Annie about the proper way to come to America and national security. We are, after all, from a long line of military officers, police officers and civil servants. We value safety, security and sound policy. But we will never lead with fear of ‘the other.’ It is not the bedrock our faith, or our lives are oriented around. She’s seven. So for now we stick with, “Isn’t it amazing that we get to live in a city with people from all over the world? Jesus would probably love this. People of every nationality and religious faith, right here on our doorsteps- as our neighbors!”
We celebrate differences and foster in her a desire to love the other- whoever the other may be. As a result, she is coming home from school excited to be partnering with children who are new to our nation. Children who deserve to be welcomed in the same way I would want my daughter welcomed. We are going to the All Are Welcome Rally tonight in honor of the little girl in her class who doesn’t yet speak English, but wants to.
We are going tonight for many reasons. For the Miriam’s. For the little girls starting their lives over in our city. For the least of these. To say welcome. And thank-you. And you can borrow a cup of sugar if you ever need it.
34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ –Matthew 25: 34-40