Immigration: Upon not having a home.


The word conjures up images of people in transit: People on buses or boats.  Desperate faces. Hopeful looks. Crammed bodies on leaky boats or in cargo containers. A baby’s body washed ashore a sandy beach. Armed police/soldiers pushing back the human tide. Thousands walking away from all manner of human-made catastrophes: war, poverty, violence; in other words, no future….

The word immigration also stirs up word bites:  We need a wall or a policy or limits. Go home. Welcome. Asylum. Illegal. Population strain. Slave labor. Refugee camps. Limits. Sanctuary….

Immigration is a process, a movement. An immigrant’s  life is always in flux. And so is mine or yours; change is part and parcel of life. Yet there is a huge difference in how the change is experienced. For many of us, there is a home base in which to experience change. For immigrants, there is no home, no stable base. There is nothing solid to stand or sit or rest upon.

In all the banter and argument and discussion on what in the world do “we” do with the recent flood  of immigrants, I note a dearth of quality conversation about the elephant in the room: Immigrants are escaping the old home for a reason. And… What can and should the rest of the world do to assist these people in creating a home they can actually live in?

Yes, I know that we have  sent in soldiers and weapons and bombs to places we deem trouble spots. And this is arguably all we think we can do. Yet, even after the routing out of despots and militias, what are we doing to make the place hospitable again? After the war, where is the rebuild?

And what are we doing to perpetuate the systematic destruction of a good life? Here are but a few examples: We use illegal drugs. We drive cars and use products that use petroleum. We mine minerals. And we decide who is worthy of attention or help, and what is worthy of  investment. We support greed over well being in so many ways, everyday, with no thought as to the consequences of our actions.

Now, I am not about to pull a simple solution or formula out of a hat. Of course not. There is no one solution. Yet there are small but significant things we can do to at least address the elephant in the room.

1. For starters, we can pour attention into what makes a place worth living in: community, resources, social support structures, affordable homes, and an economy of well being….

2. We can encourage diversity while committing to the inalienable rights of all human beings: freedom of expression, having a home, eating quality food, promotion of health, care for the sick and traumatized…. You can come  up with much more, I’m sure.

3. We can support good,  transformative ideas; i.e., inventions that turn sewage into clean water and energy, or models for effective  education or community or purposeful work,  or how to feed people healthy foods, or how to cure or prevent diseases, or solutions to environmental crises…

4. And as individuals and in groups, we can also, right now, every day, beam out our intentions or prayers for justice, freedom, well being, compassion, and a world at peace.

OK, so I made good on my statement of not having THE  answer. And if I stay in the rut of overwhelm about this situation, I can also feel that there is no hope for any answers.

I’m doing my best to clamber out of that rut, though. I invite you to do the same. Let’s do our very best to make this planet a welcome home to all of its inhabitants. I believe it does start with and ends with me and with you.

One more thought: My elderly mom has been telling me her WWII escape stories again. As a 13 y.o., she experienced the life of a refuge running away from bombs and destruction. As an immigrant a dozen years later, she and my dad immigrated to what they felt was a better life for their toddler daughter: me. Escape from the terrible or moving toward possibility: I am a product of a successful immigration. I am a product of care and attention and providers of opportunity.

Thank you and blessings,




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Elke Macartney

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