Mexico reminds me of east Tennessee.
I know it sounds odd, but it really did feel oddly familiar to ride in the taxi through Mexico City. To look out over all of the buildings built onto the sides of hills and mountains and seemingly piled on top of each other.
Everything about it felt like I had been there before. Or maybe it just felt like it was where I needed to be.
That feeling carried over to Sunday, when I sat in a church service next to a precocious 8-year-old named Andrea, listening to a pastor speak on a passage that was incredibly familiar to me, despite it being in Spanish. The feeling washed over me as Andrea pointed out to me a handful of people in the room with us who spoke English. I think she was trying to make sure I felt comfortable; that things felt familiar for me. Of course, she told me all of this in Spanish, but despite that, I somehow knew exactly what she was trying to tell me.
Andrea, just like all of the other children at Pan de Vida and the other orphanages we worked at, was extremely familiar. They are all just children. Children who have experienced much more of this harsh world than they should have in their short lives, but still just children. They want to play and learn and lead normal lives. No language barrier or hurt in the past could prevent them from just being children. Children who were very familiar to deal with.
I think it all seemed familiar because no matter where you go or where you are, things are fundamentally the same. Countries and people groups have always fought and struggled and wanted to exert dominance on each other since the beginning of time, but it seems sort of silly when you realize that their roots are identical. We all have the same problems and the same needs.
My needs were addressed on Sunday morning in Queretero, Mexico the same way they are addressed on Sunday mornings at home. My need of communion with believers and communion with my Savior. No language barrier or hurt in the past could prevent those needs from being addressed.
I don’t know all of the stories of all of the children at these orphanages. I don’t know how they ended up where they were. But I know that they were just children, like any children anywhere, and they had particular needs. Thankfully, because of where they ended up, their needs are met, including those that are addressed on Sunday mornings. Not only that, but they see the Gospel every day in the lives of those who willingly do what they can to serve the children. Their needs are familiar, and the solution is just as familiar.
It doesn’t matter where we are. Our roots are the same. Whether we live in the Netherlands or Canada or Mexico or even simply in Jackson, Mississippi, we are all fundamentally the same and should treat each other as the same.
No, I don’t mean this in a “We should all get along” sort of way. And I certainly don’t mean it in a “We should justify our sins by labeling it as loving one another” sort of way that we seem to enjoy so much these days. I mean it in a “We are all broken people with the same needs” sort of way. And when we realize that, we are free to actually love people, and not in a superficial, political sort of way. In a way where we actually care for their roots. Our familiar roots.
We are all the same. Fundamentally, I grew up the same as those children I met in Mexico. Fundamentally, I have the same needs. I was given an opportunity, by the grace of God, to act out my part in the meeting of their needs.
I pray that we don’t forget our needs. That we don’t get caught up in standing for some silly cause or fighting with each other over some unimportant viewpoint. I pray that we remember those children. That we remember that familiar feeling of needing something more than our justified vices and opinion filled arguments.
I will drive through my hometown and think about the familiar needs of the people I know and love. I will sift through countless stupid pointless internet arguments and cheesy inspirational Instagrammed photos telling me to chase a dream and think about the familiar basic needs that we hide away behind distractions.
And I will drive through east Tennessee and think dearly about those familiar children in that far away, familiar place.