When others think of the passing of the new strict Alabama Immigration Laws they may envision an illegal sneaking over a fence, but this is not what I see. I see the faces of sweet innocent Hispanic-American children flashing through my mind and faces of their hard-working, faith-filled Latino families.
I see my Francisco's face with his sweet smile and deep dimples that always made my day when he walked into my classroom. Full of pride, because not only was he learning a new language, but he was also being very successful in his first grade class. Now his desk sits empty.
I see my Lizbeth so timid, shy and small, crying on her first day of kindergarten. It was the first time she had to go "anywhere" without someone in her family being with her. It was her first time to survive in an "English Only" environment. I see her face frightened, with tears running down her cheeks, clinging to a Raggedy Anne doll that we gave her to comfort her crying the first three weeks of school because she did not know how to communicate with her teacher. I see her happy, busy and learning with her kindergarten class, but now her family too is making plans to leave our state.
I see my "English Second Language" students standing on our school stage at the end of the year, receiving many awards. I see their proud parents with "throw-away" cameras, cheering for them with tears in their eyes because they are so grateful for the opportunity their children have to get a good education in America.
I see our Spanish speaking mothers on their hands and knees cleaning our school bathrooms, a job no one else was willing to do. I see them bringing in tamales for their child's teachers. I see a single mom bringing sweet potatoes she had picked from the fields, to members of our school staff because she is so grateful that her children are loved and taken care of at our school. I see Moms learning English with their children. I see Dads working hard, praying hard, and coming up on a Saturday to help build our school playgrounds.
I see these children and families coming to school to withdraw their children so upset and inconsolable. Sad that they have to take their children from the only school they have ever known, the only home they have ever known; they no longer feel safe here. Now they feel the hurt and pain of racial profiling and bigotry. No longer do they feel welcomed in the place they used to call home.
I see teachers with hearts as big as mountains, crying as their child walks out of the classroom for the last time not knowing where they are going, but knowing they no longer feel welcomed in our schools in Alabama. I see teachers and staff praying for our families as they make the mass exodus to leave our schools and our Foley community.
I see our principal, already overworked and under appreciated, in the new not because of the good job he is doing or the high achievement scores at our low income school but because of our children and their families that are fleeing from our state. I see him giving a hug to a crying mother who grew up in Foley with his own daughter. I see them as sweet innocent girls laughing, playing and growing up in America together. I see the pain in her eyes now as many of her friends and family are living in fear and being harassed.
I see this small town community with businesses closing, homes sitting empty, classrooms with fewer students sitting at the desks and riding the school buses. I see teachers fearing for their jobs and the loss of their insurance and other benefits. I see families that still know how to bow their heads and pray together. I see churches losing their parishioners and pews empty where once there sat whole families praising God.
I see America, our country, home of the brave, land of opportunity. I see the Lady Liberty with the words...
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teamming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I see my students with their little hands on their hearts saying the Pledge of Allegiance to our American flag, reciting the words we taught them when they first walked into our school buildings...
"One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all!"
I see our country, my country, once again becoming a land of opportunity for ALL. I see America, the beautiful...from sea to shining sea. I believe in our country and the virtues it was founded on.
I see American virtues rekindled and sparking action in many. After 9-11 the unity of "We the People" was evident, and the great red, white, and blue was proudly displayed across our land. I see neighbors, helping neighbors after recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, ravishing floods, oil spills, etc. It is possible; I see our country united and indivisible.
I see my ancestors of Irish-German descent, coming to the shores of America, making an X on their citizenship papers. They and many others were willing to work hard, pray hard, and make sacrifices so their children, grandchildren and future descendents could experience the benefits of freedom...so that we could get a good education, practice our religious freedoms, and thrive in healthy communities across our great land.
The United States of America has always welcomed those in need, those that are terrorized in their own countries, those that seek other shores with tranquility and the compassion of equality. I hear words echoing within me
We hold these truths to be self-evident...
ONE NATION, UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE...
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...
Conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...
That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish.
Liberty and justice for ALL...
Words that echo though our country's history ...words carved into our hearts ...words that speak to ALL ...words that include ALL, words that our nation was founded upon ...words that reflect the virtues from which our nation was conceived ...virtues many men and women have fought for and have been willing to die for ...virtues that change hearts and make our world a better place to live.
Being a country of the people, for the people and by the people, this is work for us, those that still believe in the foundations of our country. This is work of "We the People", not work for our government or institutions to do or accomplish.
This is the time for we the people of this country to change for the better, time to move away from divisiveness, away from anger, anger which leads to ever deeper divisiveness. The energies of divisiveness and bigotry are tearing our country apart, making visible our need for CHANGE. Now is the time for all of us to reach over the fences that divide and begin to speak for our children, ALL children.
It is time for each of us to change, to move towards wholeness and away from that which divides. Now is the time to take up our work for ALL children and to make our work our prayer. To become "pencils in God's Hand" and let love enter and be part of the process... To live in harmony with our earth, our planet, to make this world a better place for ALL... A planet where "NO CHILD WILL BE LEFT BEHIND" and all children are important... A world where love lives, breathes and flourishes. Now is the time. Now is the place. Now is when we must take up this urgent work to move towards this upward shift for ALL... To become more, to be more, to do more for our neighbors. This time is our time, this time is such a time, this time is NOW.
HEART TO HEART... We the people, speak for the children, we see the faces of ALL the children and become their voices!
In HIM and Through HIM,
Please share this letter with others who have open hearts, open minds, and those that will speak for all children!