Written by The Rev. Deacon Nancy Key
I spent Saturday in support of our Pilgrims. After a moving send off, in which our Pilgrims and supporters of several faith communities prayed together and washed each other’s feet, a group of pilgrims supported by a First Aid vehicle, bus, RV with supplies and two support cars set off from the EDSJ Cathedral of St. James in Fresno. The send-off was joyous, indeed full of hope.
My role in this entourage was to be available to offer transport and support to the walkers. I opted to make my presence known only as much as need to provide assurance that I was at the beck and call of the Pilgrims, but not so close as to hover. As such, I had much time to sit in my car with the windows rolled down and door open to provide some relief from the heat of the day (high of 87 degrees) and the radiant heat of the pavement. But who was I to complain (even to myself), when this intrepid group of pilgrims were on their way to walking 17 miles from Fresno to Kerman!
As they walked, two in the group pulled out ahead, taking long strides and chatting comfortably. Another followed not too far behind. As the miles wore on, the spaces between walkers grew farther and farther, so that by early afternoon, the groups were spread out by nearly one mile. Various walkers took breaks from walking in one of the vehicles. At least one developed serious blisters, was bandaged and then pressed on.
Viewing all of this from my windshield, I cannot but marvel. I marvel at the commitment of these walkers who have taken the time to walk in solidarity with those who walk to our country. Our walkers who suffer the heat, the blisters, the thirst, the weariness of this endeavor.
And looking even farther down the road, all the way south to the border from Kerman, Merced, Turlock, and Sacramento, I am filled with a sense of helplessness and humility: who are we to think we can offer solidarity and hope to those who flee their homes to trek thousands of miles without benefit of multiple support vehicles, a place to stay at night where they can wash clothes, shower and be fed? What about the walkers whose feet became blistered and bloodied? Even just the challenges for our band of Pilgrims, supported as they were by our support caravan, seem so minor in relationship to the physicality of the trek from South and Central America!
We called this endeavor the “Pilgrimage of Hope” in our desire to offer a public witness of our support for immigrants and refugees. But, at least for this Windshield Pilgrim, it is something more. It is a Pilgrimage of Humility, for we cannot even imagine the full extent of desperation that drives a people to journey, bloodied and blistered, our borders. It is also a Pilgrimage of Pleading: as a country, we MUST change our immigration policies now.
A walk is not enough. May God give us the wisdom and strength to make a path of hospitality for those who walk to our borders.