A peaceful eye amid a hurricane of discord

When we visit other towns for more than a fast flyby, Stew and I often make two stops, one at an A.A. meeting and the other at a Unitarian Church, if nothing else just to have some face time with the locals, shake a few hands, not feel like complete outsiders.

And so for the past two Sundays we have attended services at San Antonio’s First Unitarian Church. Yesterday’s visit in particular was a powerful antidote for the swirl of news over the past two weeks about two more mass shootings, inevitably followed by the crossfire of toxic tweets, accusations and recriminations that passes for civic discourse in the U.S. today. 

These are not good times for immigrants anywhere in the world, as the shooter in El Paso reminded us in his screed before killing 22 people, the morning of August 3.

A couple of nights ago we went to see “Blinded by the Light,” a sweetheart of a movie, based on the real-life story of Javed, a young Pakistani Muslim living in Luton, a rough London suburb rife with racism and anti-immigrant animus.

Javed aspires to be a writer, but all odds are against him. Redemption comes from his obsession with the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen songs about the hard times of working-class folks. Yes, a feel-good story, just what Stew and I needed to hear.

The Unitarian service was reassuring too, in a way closer to home. The theme was acceptance and the various efforts by church members to welcome refugees and other newcomers, not only from Mexico and Central America but also Africa, arriving in San Antonio daily. 

Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs
 to such as these.
 (Mark 10:14)

The Unitarians, and also some local Catholic and Episcopal churches, have arranged for people to greet immigrants at the airport and the bus stations, welcome them, offer any help, from offering a cellphone to make a call, directing them to overnight shelters to get a meal and a bed, or any other assistance. Some of the greeters speak Spanish, others French, the latter helpful in dealing with immigrants from the Congo.

Rather than shame at sharing the same air space with white nationalists and other hateful sorts, it felt good to hear about the generous gestures of these good people.

Unitarians also have organized teams to provide food, water and other necessities to the Central American refugees trickling through San Miguel and neighboring towns on the way to the U.S., though I haven’t heard about other local religious groups joining that effort.

Particularly hopeful in San Antonio’s Unitarian service was the part devoted to children, who come up to the front of the church to listen to their own sermon, usually a simpler version of the one adults will hear later on.

On Sunday they were told about being open, kind and welcoming toward immigrants and other newcomers, and the work some church members are doing to help them.

The kids, some as young as four or five, were naturally restless, their attention span limited. But I thought it was good that, even if only a fraction of that message of generosity and open-mindedness got through to those young minds, there is indeed hope for the future despite the often depressing present state of our nation.

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