People Are Dying in Texas and I Am a Lucky Schmuck

As a Southern transplant to New York City, riding the subway during rush hour was […]

Sarah Condon / 7.25.17

As a Southern transplant to New York City, riding the subway during rush hour was the most jarring activity of the week. After a long day of work, people were ready to get home and order some takeout. In the summer, everyone smelled bad, me included. Train after train would pass with no room for the crowds to get on. There was always an air of chaos and immediacy that I haven’t experienced in any other setting.

After a few months of this daily trial, I begin to notice the shift that would happen in myself as I stood waiting for a train to pull up with just enough room for me. As soon as I got onto the train I would turn and look at the people standing on the platform and think, “those unlucky schmucks.”

This weekend authorities discovered 10 people dead in a truck in San Antonio. I would call them “migrants” as the New York Times did, but lets go with “people.” Since they were all men, let’s call a thing a thing and just say, “The authorities found the bodies of 10 husbands, fathers, and sons who died in an overheated vehicle in a Walmart parking lot. In Texas.”

This is not a rarity in my state. Just a few weeks ago there was another similar incident with some dozen people who were locked in a trailer in our beloved Bayou City of Houston. In May of 2003, 19 people died in the back of a trailer of a milk truck that had been abandoned in Victoria, Texas.

Can I get a “Jesus, please save us from our wretched estate?”

It is a painful thing to read about these deaths. It makes me feel uncomfortable and sad. This is why we avoid the topic altogether in polite company. And why writing about it as a priest and priest’s wife in Texas is a little risky.

But people are dying in the back of trucks that are reaching 175 degrees right up the street from me. So, Imma talk about it.

With the latest San Antonio deaths, it occurred to me that I am always riding the subway car looking out at the people on the platform. Sure, America has its problems. But people are dying to come and live here. And I’m writing about it from a beach house.

Am I lucky? Fortunate? Blessed? #Blessed? One of the most spiritual women in my life says she is troubled by the word “blessed” now because people throw it around so casually. Am I more blessed than the young mothers who have died in overheated trucks? Or who have drowned with their children crossing an ocean to some place better?

Good Lord, I hope not.

And based on the God we meet in scripture, I know not. Jesus blesses children, those who believe without seeing, and people who undergo trials. I have scoured all four of the Gospels to see if there is a special shoutout blessing for people born in America. It appears to be missing. On a personal whim I checked for passages about Yuppie White Mothers on Righteously Earned Beach Vacations. Also, not there.

Our God loves the poor. He raises up the meek. He promises a nation to the barren among us. Jesus loved us before we could ever love Him. Or each other. Turns out we still are not good at either of those. But God loves us anyway.

It is well established that our God is bananas.

To be very clear, I am uninterested in offering myself (or you) helpful ways to cope with guilt and sadness. I worry that “application” is just Christian talk for avoidance of icky feelings. You’ll get none of that from me. Jesus never offered us ways to assuage our guilt through action. He told us we were sinners and he loved us anyway. Again, bananas.

Besides, I used to attend Camp Feeling Bad Isn’t Enough. If that’s your thing, then there’s an exclusively social justice wing of the church that’s very good at making us all feel inadequate about not doing enough. They wore me out a long time ago. Join their proud ranks. We will still be here when they make you tired.

I actually think feeling dreadful about all of this is the perfect response. I recently observed our 6 year old saying, “I’m sorry, that sucks,” to his baby sister when her beloved toy broke. And before I corrected him for saying a phrase that horrifies his grandmother, I reminded myself that the empathetic heart is the sanctified one.

It sucks. But it’s true.

I only worry when we feel nothing. When these deaths no longer affect us. When we use words like “immigrant” or “migrant” or (throw up in my mouth) “illegal,” we turn people into problems. People have to be looked at. Problems are someone else’s issue. If we can use language that puts significant distance between the people on the train and the people on the platform, then we can forget that God knits us all together in our mother’s womb.

Be angry. Do something. Be upset. Do nothing. Be hurt. Sit and cry. I don’t care. But don’t put yourself in some other human being category because you were born into better circumstances. Don’t distance yourself. Don’t turn away just because it hurts.

God will never turn away from us. And we hurt Him all the time.

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2 responses to “People Are Dying in Texas and I Am a Lucky Schmuck”

  1. Duo Dickinson says:

    I love this: but that is not surprising…

  2. L. Jones says:

    “We will still be here when they make you tired.” ….Yes :), messed up people (everyone) welcome. And one race : human.

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