When I woke up yesterday morning I had no idea that by 5 p.m. I’d be at a Defend DACA demonstration in downtown San Francisco.
But that’s what happened.
I spent the morning off-line writing and praying and reading. And then, in the early afternoon, I went online to check my email and I saw the news story about the DACA announcement, and then I got an invitation to come to what was called an Emergency DefendDACA Rally.
I’m not very political. I vote my conscience in elections — for policies I think will do the most good for the people who most need it — but beyond that, I’ve never been to a protest or a march or a rally, because that’s not where my hope lies.
When I decided to follow Jesus, I entrusted myself to a Love that supersedes politics, agendas, partisanship and zero-sum games of tug-of-war.
I don’t believe that humanity will ultimately be saved or restored by a politician.
Can politicians do good for their communities, their countries, their world? Absolutely, and I vote for those people. And I pray for them.
Can politicians do incredibly greedy, sleazy, destructive things to their communities, their countries, their world? Absolutely, and I hope we oppose them. And I pray that Love changes their heart.
But ultimately, what overlies and underlies our world are the arms of Love. Love that’s stronger than death, Love that’s more powerful than evil, Love that pervades and infuses and steeps and holds us all. Love that always wins in the end.
I live-streamed some of the rally to my friends, and in one of the videos I said, “I’m not here because of politics. I’m here because of Love.”
And I meant it.
So if I’m not political and not usually drawn to rallies or protests, why did I go yesterday?
I’m answering this question for myself more than anyone.
There’s a verse I love in Micah, an obscure little book of the Bible.
“What does God require of you?” the author asks his audience. And then comes the answer.
I don’t care what era or country we’re talking about. If toddlers are brought to a country through no choice or fault of their own, and they grow up here, establish relationships and communities, get an education and make valuable contributions to that society, I don’t think it’s just to suddenly uproot them and send them their countries of origin (that many of them don’t even remember) — when they’ve done nothing wrong.
It’s not just to punish innocent people. Period.
One translation of the verse in Micah says, “Let mercy be your first concern…”
Your first concern.
That kind of speaks for itself, right?
I’ve always read this verse as metaphorical, as the posture we take toward God and towards others, as a reminder not to be arrogant or selfish or reckless. And I aspire to that. I truly do. I try to use my writing, my medical skills to help others, to heal the broken people and places I encounter.
But I’ve become increasingly aware that a two-dimensional existence isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to “like” posts on Facebook, to debate an issue in the comment section, to retweet articles I agree with and think others should read.
It isn’t enough to have an opinion or hold a belief. We actually have to get off our couch, get dressed, put shoes on, leave the house, and walk it out.
In the end, that’s why I went to the DefendDACA demonstration. Because it wasn’t enough for me to read news articles and grieve.
I needed to take action, to show up, to wrap my arms around my neighbors and let them know that they are welcome and loved and appreciated and respected — that they belong with us.
I think that’s what Jesus would do.
And I think that’s what I would want someone to do for me if I was in a Dreamer’s shoes.
So yesterday, I got off the couch, closed my laptop, got dressed, and put shoes on.
Because I think justice is Love with shoes on.
And mercy is the cadence of the steps we take to close the gap between ourselves and our neighbors.
I haven’t made a sign since I was 15 years old, running for student council with the campaign slogan, “Put TheBarge In Charge.” (I lost for obvious reasons.)
Yesterday I didn’t have time to go to the store to buy supplies, so I took a blank piece of paper and a few markers. As I sat on my bedroom floor with paper and markers in hand, I thought about why I was going to the demonstration.
It was to live out Micah’s words. To live out the values I believe. To live out the Love I profess.
With multi-colored markers I wrote, “Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.”
Thousands of people showed up at the demonstration. At first, we gathered on a cordoned-off side street by the Federal Building. But so many people came, the police had to block off a major street so the protesters could spill over into the next block.
There were hugs. And some tears. And some Dreamers were afraid to be identified — and wore bandanas over their faces.
But for the most part, the gathering was celebratory in its defiance as Dreamers and those who love them chanted and sang and danced. I was standing on the edge of a Dreamers dance circle when a man and a woman with drums marched into the circle, beating out the rhythm of the chants and songs as if amplifying the heartbeat of all the Love gathered there.
I walked two miles home as the sun was beginning to set.
I knew that the day was coming to a close. That in the morning I’d wake up and have the same call, the same echoing words, the same opportunity to do it again.
To put shoes on the Love I profess and walk toward my neighbors, stepping to the cadence of mercy. To the beat of our Father’s heart.