I stood in the warm water of the teaching pool helping Nahla (not her real name) float on her back. It was my second time giving adult swim lessons, and, honestly, I love it.
Nahla had grown up in another culture, one that didn’t have access to swimming pools and swimming lessons. She wasn’t the person who started me thinking about immigration, but it has been weighing on my mind. I’m too much of a news junky not to think about it, but I’m always frustrated with the one-sided telling of the story.
“What do you think of immigration?” I asked a wise friend a few days later.
Jonathan paused before he answered me. “That’s a big question,” he said.
I had made a quick trip to Washington, DC, and gotten together with some people I know from Hutchmoot. I knew that I would get a thoughtful answer.
My own experience is limited. It is, perhaps, a downfall of living in a small, rural community. A few weeks of international travel opened my eyes, but certainly has not made me an expert on much of anything.
Doug, the other person at the mini-moot in Washington, joined in by telling a story about something that had happened when he was working with refugees. Then he told a story about his father, followed by a story from Sweden. He strung the stories together with the common thread of immigration. Some revealed one side of the issue; others revealed the other.
Never once did he tell me what I should think. Nor did tell me exactly what he thought.
His and Jonathan’s stories made the topic of immigration multi-dimensional. I could walk around the issue while I thought about it — kicking the tires, tooting the horn, taking it for a test drive.
On the other hand, memes — and I feel like I’ve been inundated with memes lately — take a complex issue and flatten it into a pithy saying. Sometimes the pith is crumpled, fed into a cannon, and fired at those with opposing views. Those who agree laugh and A-men. The targets become offended and angry.
Memes are not conversation, nor are they conducive to conversation.
Last week, a picture showed up in my Instagram feed that showed a young woman holding a sign that said, “Behind millions of successful women is a an abortion they don’t regret.” Frankly, I found it offensive.
I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who do have regrets about their abortion.
I thought, I’d love to introduce you to some women who didn’t choose to have the abortion, and yet are still successful.”
And how do you measure success anyway?
Then I thought about the fact that the woman holding the poster has a story, too. I need to hear her story — with open ears and an open mind. She probably won’t change mine, and I won’t change hers, but we’ll be one step closer to understanding each other.
I thought about the pro-lifers who wave posters showing gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses. I’ve wanted to tell them about my friend who 30-some years ago had a late-term abortion because complications with the pregnancy were causing her kidneys to shut down. She and her husband had to make a Sophie’s choice. They don’t need their noses rubbed in it.
Oh, how we need to hear each other’s stories!
So I stand in the teaching pool, gently supporting Nahla’s back, encouraging her that it’s okay because I’m right there in the water with her.
A thousand thoughts run through my head — thoughts on immigration and fear and courage and the struggles women have and how grateful I am for this moment.
Mostly, that’s it — I’m grateful.