Welcome to America...Now Speak English

I first saw this t-shirt about ten years ago and I SO wanted to buy it. I was in the Dallas area shopping at Walmart and was trying to find the aisle with energy bars. I went to four different employees and could not find one who spoke enough English to understand my question. I was so frustrated--I wanted to shout this slogan from the rooftops.

You probably share my frustration at times, especially if (like me) you live in the midwest and haven't developed ears for heavy accents since you mostly talk to people who talk like you. All of us have experienced calling tech support and ending up chatting with a representative in some faraway country and being unsure of 50% of what they are saying. We have come to accept that as the price of a global economy and corporate conglomerates, and we suffer through it or hang up and call back hoping for someone different. But the annoyance is elevated into the stratosphere when we are sitting in our car in America at McDonalds and having to repeat ourselves several times. That's when the thought hits us again: "I'm still in America, right? Why can't I order a flippin' cheeseburger?"

Everyone probably has an opinion about immigration.

  • From an economic standpoint, we might read reports indicating that the influx of illegal immigrants is unsustainable; that it is too big of a burden on our governmental agencies to support; and that eventually the system will crumble from the weight.
  • From a national security view, we might believe that we live in an age of terrorism, drug cartels, human trafficking, and criminal gangs, and that the presence of millions of unidentified persons in this country poses grave risks to the safety of our citizens.
  • From a justice perspective, it may not seem fair that states are passing laws so that illegal immigrants can get drivers licenses, in-state paid tuition, health insurance and voting rights--when natural-born American citizens who are working hard don't always have access to the same benefits.

All of those are valuable perspectives and worthy of discussion and debate.

But I wonder about applying one more perspective or filter. What if we asked, "How would Jesus love these immigrants?" What did he mean when he said, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35)? Does that verse apply to how I treat those who are not like me?

Regardless of how they got here, legally or illegally, how will I show the love of Jesus to the foreigners I meet who are struggling to connect, fit in, communicate, or find basic shelter and food? What does my impatience communicate to the middle eastern woman struggling to understand traffic basics as she nearly careens her minivan into my car? What does my "I'm better than you" attitude or my "I belong here and you don't" thought that shoots through my brain before I'm able to stop it say about my view of God (who lovingly and purposely created the person I'm looking down upon) or about my own pride (which, as I recall, is on a very short list of things God hates).

This is a complex issue, and I don't pretend to have answers or even any good ideas about how to solve the national or economic implications of immigration. But while politicians debate and governments argue--there are real people in crisis coming across our borders every day. It's encouraging to see some faith leaders step up and commit to help find solutions, and in the meantime work to find a place to care for the more than 90,000 unaccompanied children who have crossed into the states to escape the horrors of unbridled gang warfare. But that's what they do. What do we do? What do you do?

What if we start by asking, Jesus, who would you have me love today? What if every follower of Jesus breathed this prayer throughout the day: Jesus, what need would you have me meet today? What if every day we looked for one person not like us--and sought a way to love them?

Maybe, instead of wearing the t-shirt, we take the time to help someone learn English. Maybe we are a little more patient with those who are serving us. Maybe we worry a bit less about political posturing a bit more about loving God and loving others.

I'm working on this. I'm throwing it out in case you need to work on it too.

Tim Stevens2 Comments