And then the soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing. They made a crown of thorns and placed it on his head and a reed in his right hand, shouting insults and making fun of him. They began spitting on him, taking the reed and beating him with it.– Matthew 27:28-30
During our Border mission in Laredo, TX, at the Catholic Charities La Frontera Shelter, we witnessed refugee families from Central America being dropped off each morning to the holding area of the shelter from ICE detention holding pens, after 2-5 days and nights in the most inhumane harsh conditions, as “criminals.” The ICE border patrol arrests the families as they emerge from the river, after 4-8 weeks of grueling travel on foot to the border. They are brought into dirty, overcrowded detention pens or outdoor cages. They treated cruelly—physically and mentally. They are exhausted, many of them ill, with no medicine or care, unclean water in small amounts, and little food. They sleep on the ground under blue tarps. The officers strip the mothers, fathers, children, and babies of most of their meager possessions. They take away their backpacks, dolls, their baby-carrying harnesses, medicines, baby bottles, jackets, blankets, diapers, and all personal items. ICE then strips them of their shoelaces to prevent these exhausted families from escaping or from using them to assault the officers.
When the ICE vans finally drop off the families at the Shelter, they are warmly welcomed, greeted with love, warmth, and prayer, to help them begin to feel safe, to begin healing from their trauma. They are brought inside the shelter to a common reception/processing room, seated, and immediately given water, food, baby formula, diapers, medicines for infections, all with reassurances, care, and love. They are all so traumatized and very afraid, some frozen with fear. No one has clean clothing, no one has had the opportunity to bathe for over a month, no one has shoelaces—they are embarrassed and ashamed of their condition.
And then the Miracle of the Shoelaces happens! As part of our immediate care of giving out water, milk, and food, we volunteers begin to walk through the rows of families, holding out boxes of brightly colored new shoelaces! We extend our arms offering the shoelaces to each mother, father, and child, inviting them to pick out their favorite colors. Each one reacts with amazed surprise, not sure about this unexpected kindness. Their breathing slows, their bodies begin to relax, fear leaves their faces, and their shoulders relax. They hesitate, but finally they reach into box of many colors. Then there is a spark of light as they choose their favorite-colored laces! A moment of safety and joy, a shifting from fear to safety. New hope, new beginnings, bright colors for their shoes: a return to safety, hope, loving kindness, and welcoming. They look up at us to make sure it’s OK, then back to picking out their new shoelaces and a new beginning.
We were privileged to witness the small Shoelace Miracles of healing, hope, friendship, trust.
– Sister Valorie Lordi, OP
Sister Valorie is the school nurse at
St. John Chrysostom School, Bronx, NY.