I stood on my tiptoes in the tall green grass, reaching for the ripest mulberries on the tree branch above. At my feet, my youngest begged “more, more” with an impish grin, his mouth and hands stained purple. The small tree was a hive of activity, branches bending every which way as eight children and three adults searched for the darkest, ripest berries.
After a while, we all piled back into the ranger. The older cousins sat in a tangle of limbs in the back and younger ones stayed up front. The wind whipped our hair around as we motored slowly down the gravel road, the taste of berries still fresh on our tongues.
I want to hold that moment, the hot windy air, the little legs and arms all pressed around my own, bouncing along next to both my parents as we watched the next generation of our family learn how to appreciate the goodness of the world surrounding them.
It is a privilege, the historied homestead and surrounding acres my family still lives and works on. I am the fifth generation of a family of immigrants who left the mining industry in Sweden for the promises of America. They came here seeking a country that better offered them their unalienable rights.
Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness.
They purchased a plot of dark, fertile soil in South Dakota. They built a house that my parents still live in today. I am here because of their choices. My life was forged in their ability not only to pursue but to find freedom.
It’s a luxury not everyone has uncomplicated access to today.
This week has been full of stories about families faced with unspeakably difficult circumstances. Their hopes for finding refuge turned into nightmares as they found themselves suddenly caught in a web of moral and legal confusion.
One story titled Where’s Mommy particularly caught my attention. In it, a mother describes her family’s need to leave El Salvador because of gang threats to the lives of her husband and son. After an exhausting series of bus rides, they ended up connecting with a group of migrants also wanting to enter the US. It is unclear if she understood that their aim was to enter illegally. But suddenly she was there, staring at a wall that stood between her and her family’s chance at safety and freedom.
I don’t know where the closest port of entry was that night. I don’t know who promised her this way would be safe, or that her family would be okay. I don’t know the fast, shallow breathlessness of her fear.
But I know the fierceness of a parent protecting her child.
I know that stress impairs judgement.
I know that blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I know that personal safety and security are valued by all of humanity, no matter what side of the wall they stand on.