By Allison Banta
Several years ago, it came to public attention that families were being separated at the US’s southern border. A few weeks into the news coverage, my five-year-old love of a girl and I went to a “Families Belong Together” rally.
It was her first rally, and I took her because it was at a park downtown, and I knew lots of other families would be there. A laid-back rally, but an important message, and one that concerns all of us. Something we could all agree on - kids should be with their families. At least, that’s what I thought. We watched goldfish swim in the park's system of ponds. She played with a friend. They stuck their feet in the water, we listened to prayers and opening remarks, and some of us marched gleefully around wearing a yellow “families belong together” bracelet, enthusiastically waving a space blanket flag another attendee had shared.
And then a counter-protester pulled out a gun.
And even though he didn’t immediately start firing it, we ran.
Someone yelled “gun”, and I saw a man standing with his arm up, and I pulled her in front of me, and I told her to run. We ran. Across a bridge, backs to the noise, five-year-old feet hitting the ground as fast as they could go. I pushed her down behind a garbage can where others had hidden, and I did not let her up until I was sure it was safe.
Because she is my child.
And here’s the thing - I would’ve broken every law I know of to keep her safe that day, and I am still not sorry. I would have stolen a car, broken into a building, lit a bridge on fire. I would’ve run across every border on this earth, and to absolute hell with the consequences. When there is a man with a gun behind you, you run. You run to any shelter you can find, and you push your kid on the ground for safety, and you pray the people who are already there will be kind and decent; you pray they will have compassion and make room.
And here’s the other thing. When it is so dangerous that we fear for our child’s life, we just run. We cross the border. Any border. All the borders on earth if necessary. Our feet hit the ground for as long as they must. And we hope and pray the people on the other side will be kind and make room.
Because these are our children.
That day, for us, no one even hesitated. They slid over, made space, and let us be safer with them.
We have the power of shelter, of safety, of welcome. No one asked me for anything before they shared their safety with us that day. They shared their space.
May we use our voices and our votes to do the same.
Call your representatives and tell them – if this is the land of freedom and welcome? Show us. Extend the welcome. Make some room.
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