Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fear, Dignity and Coldest Night of the Year

 We had exited off the interstate to take the bridge to Canada when I saw two official looking cars blocking the road ahead. Instantly my body filled with fear.  I had no legitimate reason to be afraid, no illicit goods in my car and yet my heart started pounding.   Border Patrol Officers were searching vehicles leaving the States which seemed bizarre to me. I'd never seen this before although I've crossed the border well over a hundred times.  Perhaps they were searching for stolen property or someone being trafficked, but for whatever reason traffic was blocked and cars were being pulled over for questioning.  As we were driving a rental car, the officer doing the questioning waived us over to be searched.  As we waited, I became increasingly agitated. Finally they let us go, after searching through everything in the trunk, even our dirty underwear.

 It took me awhile to understand my agitation.  It wasn't just that I was frustrated over the delay because I wanted to see my kids, but I was also completely panicked.  As I sorted through my emotions, I realized it was because I no longer believe being innocent is enough.  I knew that although I wasn't carrying any contraband and am not a threat to the United States Government, if the security officer wanted to, he could have torn apart our car, physically searched us or even detained us.  And there wasn't anything we could do about it.

 It's been like that in my life these last couple of years.  Things happened that I couldn't do anything about.   My innocence didn't matter, only my supposed guilt.  This led to deeper wariness of authority than I already had. Through this I've learned empathy for the plight of refugees.  I've started to identify more with them, to understand what it is like to leave a home not by choice.  These past few years have also given me more compassion towards the homeless.  I know what it is like to be treated with suspicion and wariness by those around me,  and how it feels to live with the resulting fear of people.  It's a rough place.

 On February 25th, I'll be walking 5k with my daughter and some great people from my church.  We're raising money for Ray of Hope, a local organization that serves the homeless.  Before the walk last year, I had an interesting conversation with another walker.  She was in her late teens, having recently gotten off the streets. She had participated in a program that employs homeless teens, teaching them life skills, providing them with an income, and returning their dignity.  I want to be a part of that, to not just feed and clothe the homeless but to provide better choices for them.  There have been so many this past year who have reached out to me, restoring my dignity and sense of self.  I am so thankful and so I'd like to pass on the gift of dignity, of hope to the marginalized in my community.

 If you'd like to be sponsor Aris or me, give our names a little click.  And if you'd like to walk yourself, click here.


  1. I'm sorry you have had bad experiences that have caused you to lose trust in authority. I cannot empathize, but I sympathize. I hope this experience of having the right thing done, in a time of heightened security, restores some confidence. It's unfortunate we live in a world where terrorists have stolen our sense of security.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Grace. I too have had similar experiences, and though I understand where the emotions come from, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with. I hope I will be able to join you for the walk!