Hi, Fellow Journeyers,

The quote last Sunday from Thomas Merton hit close to home. He had a revelation in the middle of a shopping district in Louisville, Kentucky, just an hour away from where my son came into this world in an unplanned home birth in a little log cabin in the woods. While standing at this street corner half a century ago, Thomas was “suddenly overwhelmed” with the realization that he “loved all these people.” In that moment, he understood that “we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.”

For a year now, I have been attending Austin Sanctuary Network (ASN) meetings. Three Central American immigrants fled life threatening situations and came knocking on our door in an effort to save their lives—and our call is to welcome the stranger. Sometimes I hesitate about where to sit amidst the dozens of people at these monthly meetings, but if I have the opportunity I usually awkwardly occupy an empty chair next to one of these friends in Sanctuary. The proximity makes me wonder about the experience of my neighbor who is anything but “alien.” I worry about the torture they endured, their ill health, the isolation and loneliness...

Some months I am so tired of going to these meetings: I wonder if I’m making a difference, I wonder why our elected officials aren’t helping. During these trying moments, I struggle to stay put and be present in this space for a mere two hours. I walk to the restroom and ask myself, “How on God’s green earth could I survive living in this building for hundreds and hundreds of days and not be able to leave for fear of deportation?”

Thomas Merton says his sudden revelation was like “waking from a dream of separateness.” My own revelation is happening more slowly. I might squeak out a few words as I pass Hilda or Alirio, force a smile or even offer a hug. These make me feel connected to our precious friends but in that solidarity, I also feel consumed by their pain. And thinking about that is almost unendurable for me.

Maybe it takes longer for me to wake up, like those dreams where I know I am asleep but I can’t open my eyes. I hope that some day soon I can experience the emotions of relief and immense joy that Thomas talks about, when we can all see each other “shining like the sun.” Then if we could see each other that way all the time, “There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.” And our friends in Sanctuary would be free. 

If you want to contribute your time and energy for Alirio, Hilda and Ivan, please contact me, or visit the website at austinsanctuarynetwork.org.