This past week we celebrated Halloween. The Christian church followed that with celebrations of All Saints and All Souls. It’s the time of year—at least in the northern hemisphere—when many plants are dying, or appearing to succumb to mortality, although in many cases, their growth is simply moving underground, out of sight for the winter.
We had a light freeze last week—very early for my part of the Sonoran Desert!—which left the west-facing side of the basil in my garden frost-burned, dark and shriveled, though it appears the plants themselves will survive for a bit longer. I hope so, because I want the seeds they are working to produce, for next year’s planting.
For the past couple of weeks, St. Philip’s Church hosted an art exhibit of images drawn by children at Casa Alitas, a short-term shelter for migrant asylum-seekers in Tucson. For a few months earlier this year, Casa Alitas was able to expand into Tucson’s historic Benedictine Monastery, which provided extra space for hundreds of migrants to shelter, regroup, receive new clothes, and be fed, physically and spiritually, before they moved on to connect with family and sponsors in other parts of the country.
During that time, hundreds of young guests drew their prayers in a room set aside for art and activities. Where the Benedictine nuns used to sew their habits, children drew while their mothers embroidered. The children’s drawings give us windows into their world—what they’ve left behind, what they love, what they fear, and what they hope.
These young souls have much to teach us. I cannot imagine leaving home, walking (or hitching rides) for hundreds of miles, being harassed and discounted and abused and told they’re worthless. In a sense, they are the “harassed and helpless” sheep without a shepherd about whom Jesus spoke (see Matthew 9:36). Yet they persevered, and these young souls—with their stories, and memories, and pain, and hope—are now poised to become part of the amazing and complex web of American culture.
These children are perched on a threshold, entering new life in a new land, and they bring their emotional and spiritual baggage along with them. They are, in a sense, the seeds of frost-burned plants. We do not know what new growth they will produce in the years ahead, but we do know that they are just as much children of God as we are.
Please join me in prayer for these young (and old!) souls this week. May all these precious children find open arms and loving hearts in their new homeland.