It was a moving experience for my wife and I to see over 300 people participate in the "Families Belong Together" rally/march in downtown Sherwood, Saturday June 30. It felt like we were witnessing a public demonstration by Sherwood and the surrounding communities of that familiar biblical passage of Matthew 25:35 "...I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
We are living in chaotic and uncertain times. White nationalism has been allowed back into the public sphere. Economic inequality is at an all-time high. Gun violence continues to increase. Fill in the blank for what concerns you. In fact, there is a lot to make each of us anxious. It's enough to make a person want to hide into what they know, trying to keep that much of their life secure, manageable and understandable.
But is this really the right reaction? Do we want to shut ourselves into increasingly smaller circles of safety, where those not like us in even the smallest way, become our enemy? We think the rally showed another way. Instead of living in houses of fear, we can choose to live in houses of love. Our Episcopal pastor, Ed Bacon, liked framing life this way.
We saw young and old alike, in strollers and with walkers, and all kinds in between. We met an older Cuban American woman who, possibly for the first time, addressed a large crowd to share her personal story of immigrating to this country. We met a mother and her two teenage daughters. She said she saw the cable news showing similar demonstrations across the nation, she looked up if there was one locally, found ours, and said, "Girls, get up, we have something important to do this morning." Another person told us that she hadn't participated in a demonstration since the Vietnam War. "Today I decided to get involved because this issue of children being separated from their parents is a moral issue of such importance!"
There were a lot of smiles everywhere as people conversed before the rally/march commenced. Stranger talking to stranger. Stories being swapped. There was a positive atmosphere all around with people eager to finally make their voices heard, after weeks of frustrating news about what this administration has been doing to human beings seeking to come to this country legally. Their voices echoed off the City Hall walls in fact. We think there was a realization that each of us was participating in something special and empowering; almost a sense that, "No, I don't have to take it anymore." This was a tangible response to a policy change that everyone felt was abhorrent to what this nation stands for, and what this community in the Southwest Portland area stands for. Good people who want to live, not in fear, but in love, could finally also see that they were not alone in this.
So where does this leave us? How about encouraged? Perhaps inspired? There is an alternative to giving up, giving into despair and going to that house of fear. It's a messier and riskier thing to try to live out of a house of love. And, of course, the work does not stop at showing up in the face of injustice; it is a constant and vigilant effort to stay engaged and to do the daily work required of a healthy democracy — and community.
Alexis de Tocqueville said, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." Here in Sherwood, maybe we can be a part of showing that it is this inherent goodness as a people that can make a difference and return our nation to greatness.
Maddie Gavel-Briggs and Patrick Briggs are co-leaders of Our Indivisible Revolution Sherwood.