L.I.F.E. Downtown: “It was probably the Irish in her.”

“It was probably the Irish in her.” This is what my grandmother has said to justify or explain a behavior of her mother- my great-grandmother- Kathleen Bowling. My great-grandmother was Irish by descent and her family came over in the later 1800s after the Irish Famine. My great-grandmother raised her 11 children during the Great Depression where it was reported that she washed and hung out to dry paper towels to be resourceful. When my grandmother tells us this story she ends it with, “it was probably the Irish in her.”

This tagline which I have heard my whole life has always personally put into perspective for me the realities of global immigration. Throughout time famine, war, political persecution, and danger has sent people in make shift mass transportation vehicles across oceans and desserts to find a better life.

Global immigration is no stranger to our news stories. In fact almost every day since 9/11 immigration has been part of our news cycle and political campaigns. I don’t know about you but for me it has been hard to watch some of the news reports coming out of Hungary the past few weeks. We are seeing once again how war is causing people to find new places to call home. People are in the process of picking their poison- being killed by bombs or by drowning in route to a new country. These are the same questions my great-great grandparents had to make.

This week in our scripture James reminds us of wisdom’s role in our lives saying, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” James 3:13-4:3, 7-8aJames relates goodness to wisdom and states that gentleness is born of wisdom.

Wisdom often requires seeing the big picture not just the few photos or phrases that make it into our Facebook timeline stream. Wisdom often asks, “Where am I in this equation?” Wisdom often finds a way to identify with something or someone rather than against something or someone. James says that all of this should then produce works of gentleness. Gentleness does not require giving in or giving away but it does require empathy, patience, and love.

Wisdom often requires seeing the big picture not just the few photos or phrases that make it into our Facebook…

As I have seen the videos and stories of those fleeing Syria I have also seen images of my relatives who came to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs and only hope in their hearts. I am reminded of my great-grandmother who re-used disposable items. I am reminded my grandmother who has never forgotten that although a citizen she also holds an immigrant story.

This week as we watch and pray and wonder what is the best way forward for our world concerning immigration I also invite us to moments of gratitude where we can appreciate our own immigration story. The story might be four generations or five generations old but it is still part of our story and the world’s story. I also invite us to pray for empathy, patience, and love for the world and ourselves.

Join me in this prayer for Immigrants around the world:

Dear Jesus,

Our journey through life is long and hard. We cannot make this trip alone; we must walk together on the journey.
You promised to send us a helper, your Spirit. Help us to see your Spirit in those you send to journey with us.
In the refugee family, seeking safety from violence,

Let us see your Spirit. In the migrant worker, bringing food to our tables,

Let us see your Spirit. In the asylum-seeker, seeking justice for himself and his family,

Let us see your Spirit. In the unaccompanied child, traveling in a dangerous world,

Let us see your Spirit. Teach us to recognize that as we walk with each other, You are present.

Teach us to welcome not only the strangers in our midst but the gifts they bring as well: the invitation to conversion, communion, and solidarity.

This is the help you have sent: we are not alone.
We are together on the journey, and for this we give you thanks.