Fashionistas at the comedor: Life is good

By on November 1, 2011

 

•October 29, 2011 • 3 Comments  republished from www.arroya.org

 

Friends and neighbors have been generous in their donations to the comedor with clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats—things that migrant travelers need. I smile when I sort through the high quality jackets, shirts and pants. We’re talking Land’s End, Gap, Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer, North Face, Patagonia. Some still have the price tags on them. They have never been worn.

comedor fashion

The Sisters, the Samaritans, and a couple of college students help organize the clothes onto tables for the men, women and children. The migrants come into the shelter in small groups and pick out the clothes according to their needs. Most look slumped over and discouraged when they enter. They are silent, and no one speaks. But then things pick up a bit. Someone finds a pair of jeans that fits perfectly and a fleecy hooded jacket for the cold autumn nights. One guy dances around with some Calvin Klein boxer shorts. A young woman holds up a “Life is Good” t-shirt and models it for others.

“Life is Good?!” Lots of irony this morning.

Sorting through Calvin Klein and J.C. Penney’s

The ladies love the jeans with the studs and sequins. The men look for Levi’s, clean sox, and a packet with razor blade and toothbrush. They all stand a bit taller, and there is joking in the room about the bigger sizes of so many American men and women, and the small stature of the Mexicans. Belts are very popular and necessary to hold up the large-sized pants. There is something about new clothes that just makes a body feel better. It’s a bit like Christmas, at least for the moment.

I see patience, humility and gratefulness in the faces of the migrants. There is no shoving, no shouting, no competition for the best shirt, or the fanciest backpack. And the children—-they are so well behaved, it is eerie. No crying, no whining, no fussing. The room is filled with “gracias”, and “God bless you” as they leave with an armful of “ropa.”

Being together is everything…

Truly helping another human being is a tricky dance. I know. As a public health nurse in another life, another place, I’ve seen how difficult it is to impact poverty in a meaningful way. Giving away stuff can foster dependency, resentment, and a lifetime of handouts. But this feels different. These people are truly in crisis and are in survival mode. The clothes, the nourishing food, our attempts to help people reunite with their families, our awkward attempts at reaching out—these are righteous acts.

Sometimes it all feels like baby steps, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

I have an old button at home that says: “The Meek are Getting Ready”. I think I’ll wear it next week.

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