When Santa Comes to the Border. That’s Ms. Santa to you.

By on December 29, 2011

 

Samaritan Shura becomes Mz. Claus

photo by Carolyn Osborne

 

December 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

 

It is the Christmas season, and our high-spirited Samaritan group packs the van to the hilt with warm clothing, new socks, and backpacks, all donated from Arizona friends and neighbors. One of the bags of donated clothing has a sexy little number buried in the jeans and jackets with a note pinned to it: “I just couldn’t resist this!”  

 Well, there is nothing like a dare to motivate our festive group today. Shura, who has organized the Green Valley Samaritans and has been the prime mover for the past ten years, quickly tries on the outfit (perfect fit) and we march toward the border. Of course we stop traffic, and there are hoots and hollers and trucks honking their horns.

 We are laden with bags of cookies, Christmas cards and good cheer this week. The peddlers, the newspaper sellers, the windshield washers trying to make a few pesos at the border—-all descend on our group when they see Shura strutting her stuff as we walk through Homeland Security and Mexican customs. There are hugs and greetings all around as we hand out the cards and cookies.

 

Samaritan Shura gives Sergio his Christmas Card and Gifts

Approaching the comedor we see Sergio, a homeless man who survived severe burns six months ago. Standing on the curb in his ragged pants and hoodie, Shura gives him a special card and a bag of cookies. Sergio is puzzled and hands the card back to Shura. It becomes clear to us that he has never received a Christmas card, and doesn’t know quite what to make of all this.

 Sergio is mentally ill, we are told, and lives in the streets of Nogales, Sonora, a victim of abuse and attacks. Last summer a local gang threw battery acid on him and he survived second and third degree burns on his back and shoulders. Through the loving, patient ministrations of Nurse Norma at the clinica and the regular meals at the comedor, Sergio survived. We have seen this man grow stronger as the weeks progressed, and he now greets us as we approach the comedor. Usually he asks for cigarettes and a Coke, but today he senses that this is a special occasion. It is Christmastime, and we come bearing gifts.

 

Blessed are the Me

 

Sergio impulsively lifts his clothes to show us his back and his burns, which are now healing quite well.  The Samaritans gasp as we view the extent of this man’s scars.  Shura continues to try and give him the Christmas card. There is a small amount of money in the card, and she shows him this. He takes the money, becomes very tearful, and gives us back the card again. And he picks up his ragged little suitcase that he hauls everywhere and heads up the street.

 It is just one of those moments where we don’t know quite what to do. This business of gift-giving and reaching out can be complicated and confusing. But we head on into the comedor where there are eighty or more migrants finishing up their breakfast.

 

Warm Clothes for a December Journey

The weary immigrants applaud and smile as Shura enters in her Mrs. Santa Claus outfit. A few migrants shake their head in disbelief and give us a thumbs up on our entrance. Many are heading to homes in Mexico and points south. Some are trying to figure out if they dare cross into the U.S. again to try and reach family in cities they call home.

 

Comfort and Joy

The place feels like a busy bus station. People are coming, people are going, some heading back to their villages for the Christmas season, and some trying to cross into the U.S. The mood is upbeat. And Shura’s “Mrs. Claus” outfit brings a smile to everyone. There are times at the comedor when laughing, handing out cookies, and wrapping a shivering soul in a blanket is what we do. The gift of warmth and friendship is the best Christmas gift of all.

 

Photo credit:  “Shura spreading some Christmas cheer”, Cheryl Osburn

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