While my daughter and I helped tiny hands dip paintbrushes into glue mixture and press colorful tissue paper scraps onto the backdrop of cut-out manger scenes, a man at the back of the church cafeteria took to the stage to remind the children and their parents that they matter. Somos importantes en esta socieded. Somos importantes en nuestra comunidad. A large hand-painted black banner behind a long table of Latino culinary delights, all prepared to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, read: No Mas Deportaciones.
My heart ached and my blood boiled. Everyone should feel important. I wanted to build a perfect manger scene for the people in the room. I wanted them to have everything they deserve. The right to live together as a family in peace, without fear. The right to support their children, the right to healthcare, the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
I wanted to be part of a country that wouldn’t have the little girl or boy sitting in front of me wondering if they are important or wondering if they matter. I wanted to be part of a world where people aren’t referred to as ‘aliens.’ I wanted to grab the microphone from the man, who by now was playing cheerful Spanish Christmas songs on his accordion, and tell everyone in the room that I care. That we care. That there are so many of us who are ashamed of the inhumanity of laws and directives made by those who never take the time to hear the stories and the anguish of those on the receiving end. I wanted to tell them that we who are human have hearts and will not abandon their cause.
When the song ended, the man spoke again. It was a role-play. A little boy was being bullied at school for speaking Spanish, so remember, he cautioned the children who were just putting their finishing touches on their crafts and enjoying some holiday cake, learn English really well.
I helped a little girl peel off the last miniature star sticker on her craft set. Donde quieres poner la ultima estrella? I asked. She searched for the perfect place to put the star but wasn’t sure. The manger was complete, and the sky was already filled with stars. Even a lamb and a donkey had managed to make it up there somehow. When I turned my head for a moment, she put the last sticker on. Where did you end up putting it? I asked in amazement. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. Looking at all of the stars together, she couldn’t remember which one was the last one. But it didn’t matter and we both knew it. Together, they were beautiful.
And so, if you are the last one...
The last one to come.
The last one to make the journey.
The last one to hope that this land will welcome you.
The last one to speak your language because you are afraid or embarrassed.
The last one to stay at home for fear of going out.
The last one to miss your country even in its disarray because at least there you weren’t different.
Then let me tell you how brave I think you are. Let me tell you that you matter. Eres importante.
And if you have forgotten what it feels like to be the last one. Or if you have been so fortunate to have always had your place in the sky, then I ask you to look down from that high place and see those who might be suffering below, someone in a manger, that might just be the house next door.
If you are the last one to come, I want you to know that this is a more beautiful place because you are here.
We can all make room for one more star. And one more star. And one more star.