“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel will come to you, O inmigrant.” Christmas Experience Year Round

The 18th of December is the day dedicated to "the Migrant" by the UN. The celebration of this day is an opportunity to highlight the innumerable difficulties, the seeds of change and the actions of solidarity experienced by individuals, families and groups of immigrants so as to look at them with the eyes of the heart. Laura Bauer offers us a prayerful moment. Through "Experiences of Christmas throughout the Year", we discover the seeds of new life that she learned to recognise while sharing the daily life of immigrants at the Family Health Service Centre of the Little Sisters of the Assumption in East Harlem, New York.

Jesus is manifested in the fragile life, female and male, named Brissia, Jesbeli, Jocelyn, Katelyn, Megan, Jasye, Juan Carlos, Angel, Ruby, Salvador, Andreas, and yes, Jesus. These holy ones are bright-eyed, beautiful seekers of their mother’s breasts, heralds of hunger and dirty diapers, heartwarming bundles of potential and hope.
 
They are born to work-weary, worried husbands, fathers and partners. These men work back-breaking 12 hour shifts washing dishes or risk their health gutting old apartment buildings with a mask their only protection against asbestos and other dangerous dusts and powders. These Josephs live scared, they try to stay invisible, never knowing when an INS roundup will forever separate them from their families and their US citizen children. 
 
Mary is a teenage mother excited about her first child, looking for bargains on infant clothing, wondering if food stamps cover Pampers, wearing a hooded sweatshirt in winter so she can buy a crib. Mary is an early 30’s woman having her fifth child, the first in the US, the other four left behind in Mexico to be raised by their grandparents. It was too dangerous for them to make the crossing, they were too young. She worries about them, misses them terribly, wonders if she will ever see them again.
Their stable is a three –room apartment shared with four other families. A steam pipe along the wall is their source of heat. Dad sleeps on a blanket on the floor while mom sleeps with the other children. The teenagers may have a bed, but most likely not. Their sheep and goats are mice and roaches, “fresh” mice which don’t hesitate to run into view in broad daylight. And for this stable they get to pay $1500 per month. Sharing the cost among four families helps but it leaves very little money left over for food, clothing or medicine.
 
A rather dismal picture and yet these “holy families” believe life will be better for their children. They live with hope and gratitude. God is with them: Emmanuel accompanies them. “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel will come to you O Immigrant.” 
 
Laura Bauer, nurse at the Family Health Service,
of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, East Harlem
 
20/12/2011
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