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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher

When I was a stranger...

Hope is something many of us never think about. Those of us who do think about it, often take it for granted. If asked, people often ask, 'Hope for what?' That's a good question.

We Americans, who have had unprecedented freedom and opportunity for generations, don't necessarily hope, but we do dream. We dream about nice cars and big homes and fancy vacations. We dream of a life of ease, enabled by even more money than we already have.

Hope is different. Hope is for a better, happier, more fulfilling future. A safe, happy, healthy future, despite whatever our current circumstances are. Americans have been blessed with hope to the point where we take it for granted that things will always get better. Even when things are temporarily bad, we expect that - hope or assume that - conditions will improve and life will reach even greater heights.

By and large, we have been right. We have been right so long that we feel entitled to this continuously improving lifestyle, fueled by resources that we always seem to find or invent just in time.

Other parts of the world are far less stable, comfortable or hopeful. Many of the underpinnings that make Americans more confident about the future do not exist in other countries.

In other parts of the world, people don't enjoy our freedom and never have. Given that this was always 'how it is' many of them don't complain. Having never seen sunshine, they grow used to the clouds.

Some are not free to express their political opinions. Others are not free to worship God the way they want to. This includes officially sanctioned acts such as outlawing some, or all types of worship centers. When groups seek change, and they go to the streets to protest and increase awareness, they're met with threats, tear gas, arrest and the full range of physical violence.

Some governments are actively oppressive of their people. China and Russia are two large examples. They would have the world believe that Americans are oppressed too. I believe that's incorrect, and they probably know that.

Other governments are so disorganized, dysfunctional and corrupt that they cannot create an orderly society with a balanced, intelligent approach to governing. When threatened, however, they default to the models sold by the big authoritarian countries who 'just want to help.'

Ultimately, in America, we have more hope because we have more opportunity to make what we hope for, happen. We also have a long track record of doing exactly that. Our history is filled with people who made their dreams into reality.

From older innovations like the cotton gin and the coal-fired steam engine, to newer technologies like laptop computers, GPS, and smart phones and homes, when we needed a better way, we figured it out. Inventors and visionaries like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates used the freedom and capability we have to invent life-altering new products that changed the world.

Because we have had such good fortune, and because a byproduct of that is continual hope for the future, we have a hard time understanding people whose hopes are drying up. Or have already dried up or have never existed in the first place.

Whether in places hard-hit by famine and drought including many African countries or in places where the oppression of new ideas or alternative government or leadership is crushed, hope is hard to come by.

What some desperate people do, particularly in Central America, is walk to the United States. What they gloss over on TV is what that means. The distance from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where some of these folks are coming, to McAllen, Texas, the southernmost larger city in the US, is about 1580 miles. Google maps estimates this walk to be 520 hours.

So to put this in perspective, assuming no stopping for things like sleep or food or bathroom stops or interruptions like robbers and gangs, or border problems, since you are passing through other similarly lawless countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and some areas of Mexico, not to mention the U.S., you will walk, non-stop, for almost 22 days.

If you did a walk of similar distance in the US, you could go from Boston to Wichita, KS, a nice little city where visited many years ago. Google estimates the time as the same as the one from Honduras, but I'm guessing you may not meet as many hostiles on the journey from Beantown to the land of perpetual wind (and only 200 or so miles from Dodge City!)

So who has more hope? The American, who has learned to expect good things and more and more of them, because even the poor in the U.S. live better than they well-to-do of some other places? Or is it the desperate, terrified Honduran, who thinks it's a better bet to hit the road, walking for a minimum of 3 weeks with no breaks or interruptions, through areas where gangs and thugs of every possible specialty live, waiting just for you (and the thousands with you)?

Add to this, the likelihood that the Honduran is aware of the immigration struggles in the U.S. for the past 3 years. And what is happening to those who try to come in.

Just my opinion, you have to have A LOT more hope to take on a trip like that, especially with your family, which may include small children or frail elders. That sounds better to these folks that sitting tight and HOPING for change in their homeland before something awful happens to them there. And if they are arrested and confined once they get here, at least they're not at home, where it is far more dangerous.

At the end of the day, people try their best to solve their problems. Whether it's impending starvation or threats from gangs or political intimidation or endangering your spouse, children, other family or friends, you do what you can - whatever it is - to make yourself and your loved ones safe. Even if it means undertaking incredible risk to have a chance.

Even if we, as Americans, accept that they 'shouldn't come here' and 'it's not our problem, tell them to fix their own country' and of course, 'they have to follow the law,' the fact is they are here, and treating them badly on purpose to discourage others from coming is immoral and (also, isn't working, as they apparently are coming in bigger and bigger numbers.)

As we often call ourselves a Christian nation, we need to start treating the unfortunate the way Jesus would. That doesn't have to mean 'open borders' or a 'wall' on the extremes. But a reasonable, orderly, dignified handling of human beings, informed by common sense and, yes, some Christian charity.

These folks were created and loved by God just as all of us were. The U.S. is a victim of its own success - people want to come here and if you lived almost anywhere else, you would too. And our country has as one of its core beliefs that people can come here and enjoy what we all take for granted.

There is a legal process for simple immigrating, and a different process for those seeking asylum from imminent danger. Both need to be reviewed to ensure reasonable protection from those who would do harm as well as humanity and kindness to those seeking to come here.

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your comments. God bless you!



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