The photo above only tells a small part of a much larger and longer story. 27years ago I too stood in line waiting my turn to enter the Immigration building in Kansas City. A small unattractive building exuding no sense of welcome or generous hospitality. As I stood in line I knew I was one of the more fortunate ones. I spoke English, I was not homeless, I had financial resources, I was not fleeing and seeking entry due to fear or impending danger. However, the whole experience was intimidating on each of my many visits to the building over many months. Another poem today from the British poet Carol Ann Duffy captures some of the story behind the many stories of those who have found themselves living in another country. In her poem, Foreign Duffy places the reader as an alienated foreigner in the city they have lived in for some 20 years. Notice as you read, the themes of alienation, home, and acceptance. Today, we continue to be overwhelmed by the tragedy of war in Ukraine and the ongoing search for a home without fear of those fleeing parts of central America as they attempt to cross the Mexican/American border. The circumstances differ but both groups are paying dearly in this ongoing search for hope and home. Please pause, ponder, and offer prayer as you read today’s poem and where you can extend a welcome to those in your community who might be feeling as the one in the poem feels.
Imagine living in a strange, dark city for twenty years.
There are some dismal dwellings on the east side
and one of them is yours. On the landing, you hear
your foreign accent echo down the stairs. You think
in a language of your own and talk in theirs.
Then you are writing home. The voice in your head
recites the letter in a local dialect behind that
is the sound of your mother singing to you,
all that time ago, and now you do not know
why your eyes are watering and what’s the word for this.
You use the public transport. Work. Sleep. Imagine one night
you saw a name for yourself sprayed in red
against a brick wall. A hate name. Red like blood.
It is snowing on the streets, under the neon lights,
as if this place were coming to bits before your eyes.
And in the delicatessen, from time to time, the coins
in your palm will not translate. Inarticulate,
because this is not home, you point at fruit. Imagine
that one of you says Me not know what these people mean
It like they only go to bed and dream. Imagine that. Carol Ann Duffy
Ever welcoming God,
as you searched out the lost
and in finding returned home rejoicing.
Ever forgiving God,
as you waited for the wayward son to return,
you fed him a feast.
Ever loving God,
as you included all, excluding none,
so now welcome me, forgive me, and love me.
And as I live remind me daily that I too,
can welcome, forgive, and love neighbor and stranger alike. Amen.