I am American. I am Mexican.
My life is intertwined with relationships in the two worlds. I live in a first world country. I visit a third world country.
Trips across the border are very common and always quite welcome. I look forward to what is waiting for me here and there.
But as any other place in this material world we live in, wherever there is contact between poverty and wealth we are bound to experience some friction. In this case, I speak of an intrapersonal conflict that occurs every single time I cross the border.
If you’ve never been to the San Ysidro border crossing, the busiest border crossing in the world, let me paint you an image…
The dreaded “border wait” is literally a 2-hour parade of poor quality merchandise and brand name knock-offs: Ponchos, NFL team helmets, cartoon-character piggy banks, aztec calendars (in blankets, decorative stones, mirrors, posters, and clothing)…anything worth selling.
The parade features relentless salesmen that follow you until you purchase that home-made quality print of Al Pacino’s Scarface you may have glanced at, children earning your change with self-taught acrobatic juggling that is almost good enough to get them into the circus, indigenous mothers selling hand made bracelets along with their too-young-to-talk children selling “chicles” (gum).
The parade goes on 24/7 and you get a prime seating within your car, all without losing your spot in line.
Along with all these opportunities to sell, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters see this as an opportunity to beg for help. Almost obligatory is the ask from our community’s 4 neighbors with the most need of our help.
The Missionaries: impeccably white uniformed religious group supporting the poor.
The Drug addicts: men with blackened skin from layers on top of other layers of exhaust fumes. Though a sinner he may be, who am I to judge, for I sin as well. Yet, his time of need is undeniable.
The Crippled: men and women handicapped by the loss of one or two limbs, the blind, those severely wounded or sickened begging for financial assistance for a medical procedure of some kind.
The Poor: indigenous women and children that have escaped from even more extreme poverty regions further South.
Each of these vulnerable neighbors is in desperate need, in a moment of crisis, in need of mercy.
‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…?’
…’The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Luke 10:36-37 (NIV)
Hundreds of times I have inched my way past my desperate brothers and sisters without extending my hand and expressing compassion or generosity. Hundreds of missed opportunities for God’s grace to flow through me. The excuses are many…
They’ll only use the money for drugs. They should be working. I don’t want to encourage them to beg. I need the money myself. I don’t have change. I have many other excuses to convince myself not to give joyfully.
But now I ask myself… “What would The Good Samaritan do?”