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Compassion in the Trump Era

Dear Friends, a few reflections on  “A Day without Immigrants”:

I work as a part time custodian/janitor at a health Club in the twin Cities Metro area.  
I have an amazing coworker, from Mexico City working for her American Citizenship. I will call her “Pillar”. Pillar is married, has two children, one son and a daughter. She is a very dedicated, hard worker.    Our supervisor (who voted for Donald Trump ) is currently on vacation. On Wednesday, using a translation app on her smart phone Pillar asked me who she had to tell that she would not be at work on Thursday.   I offered to help her find the answer.   I went to the general manager’s office and explained the request.   The General manager’s administrative assistant said ”OK”, and that she would pass the word on to the GM.   I verbally related that information to Pillar.  

A few hours later, another employee, Julia, fluently bilingual (Spanish and English) was talking to Pillar.  The same issue of needing to take Thursday off was mentioned.  The Administrative Assistant with whom I had discussed the issue was right there, and again communicated that she would inform the GM.   Pillar has had both medical and immigration issues in the past that have required her to miss work.   

Pillar and I have occasionally discussed current events and the new president.  I have made it clear that I too fear the effect that the new president will have on not only the United States Constitution but also poor people, immigrants, the environment and our nation’s standing in the world. I inquired as to why she needed  the day off she said something about volunteering at her daughter’s school.   On my drive home Wednesday I heard about “A Day Without Immigrants.” 


I was directly affected by Pillar’s absence.  She (a full time employee) and I (a part time employee) are the only ones in our department during the day.   I covered the most important duties including staying on top of washing and drying towels, trash pickup and dust mopping the hallways.  I kept thinking of Pillar, her precarious situation as it pertains to furthering her pursuit of American Citizenship. The now seemingly tenuous nature of Latinos, living by the rules and doing everything by the book, attempting to gain American Citizenship.   Would her participation in “A Day Without Immigrants” benefit her cause, or would it make her more likely to come to the attention of I.C.E.? On Thursday when I saw Julia, I had assumed that Julia and Pillar were confidants, and inquired in a hushed tone about what Pillar had said about why she couldn’t come to work that day.   Julia more or less shrugged it off and suggested that while Pillar had not mentioned a specific reason, it was likely due to health/medical issues.  It was then that I pointed out that Pillar is an immigrant and Thursday had been designated “A Day Without Immigrants.”


 I felt rather foolish for ASSUMING that just because Pillar was an immigrant that she would take part in such an action.  A bit later I was in the office of the supervisor of a different department and noticed a “Valentine” looking card sent from the male general manager of the club to the male head of this particular department, with several panels bearing pictures of Donald Trump.  The Valentine made some sort of joke about immigrants.  At that time I did not really want to broach the subject to learn which side these particular gentlemen are on. 


On Friday, when Pillar returned to work, I said I didn’t like spending a Day without Immigrants…  She then told me that she had gone to a rally at The State Capitol. Later In the day Julia said, “Luke you were right about yesterday…”



By Friday afternoon the emotional rollercoaster, my lack of sleep, and physical exhaustion had taken their toll.   I was on my way to clock out when I heard a child’s voice call out enthusiastically, “Hey Luke….”  I turned around to see one of the children from the daycare center in the building with whom I had almost daily interactions. I greeted him with an equally enthusiastic, “Hey Joseph, buddy.”  I held out my hand to give him a “High 5” when he said “No, HUG.”   I picked him up, gave him a great big hug. And said,” Joseph, you have a good weekend.”


A  part of my job description at work, and my personality is to be empathic, and compassionate. Feeling this great surge of empathy for Pillar, and at the same time fear and distrust of the Trump administration makes staying focused on love, compassion more of a challenge.  But we all know in the end that “LOVE TRUMPS HATE.”

Empathy, compassion, trust, and humor will all be key ingredients in establishing and maintaining community that will sustain us through the days of darkness and confusion we are presently experiencing.

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