dusty hands 

 

 

Editor’s note: This is a spoken-word poem by Tim Isaacson about his experience at the recent Americans for Reform event in Washington, D.C. It originally appeared on Tim’s blog, Dividing Walls. Permission was given to repost it.

I’m journeying back to Washington DC to plead for immigration re-form with legislators and their aides.  We’re trying to woo. To convince. To somehow sway. It’s all people and times and constituencies and committee work and numbers and polls and policy principles and key words you use and other key words you don’t. It’s travel schedules, Metro lines, and encouraging new folks in an intimidating process. It’s about righteous indignation meets human frailty in one tiny little life.

But somehow it stopped being about people I know. So I took a walk. A time to pray.

I went to Pearl Lane. To where so much began. Lots of memories of Bernard and Cheryl, Alex, Jonathan, Kevin, Orlin, homework and noise.  Loud chaos.  Christmas carols, coats, and cook outs.  But it was all Caspar-the-friendly-ghost memories.  Nothing—tangible.

I found myself kneeling down and grabbing a small handful of dirt.  Something to touch and roll around in my palm. Gritty. A place where people walk and spit and piss. Where dreams and arguments filled the air and the soil. Hope ground down deep as people walk looking for work.

And an idea took hold.

I went to the old garden at the end of the alley. Not even a garden anymore, but at one time it was. Rei Kim’s. Before she died. Before she made a deal with God to prove he hadn’t forgotten her in her cancer. “Shhhhh, a secret. Just between you and me. Give me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas.” So God told a 3 year old, who told his mom…twice. She finally called. And when asked what she wanted for Christmas, Rei Kim said, “A vacuum cleaner.”  So she got one. And died knowing she wasn’t forgotten.

A handful of dust.

The bus stop. The place where Orlin died. Walking to school. Falling down dead of a heart disease. But his heart, his real heart, was never dis-eased. I know he’s in heaven. That we all miss him. What a smile! That mischievous “Hey, Mr.” questioning as he ate all the oranges in Bible study and wanted to know how and when the world would end. Who knew it would be at a bus stop?

A handful of dust.

The playground at Ian and Ruth Ann’s. VBS and lines of kids. After school. Picking up soccer teams. I remember the time Junior was set to come to church but changed his mind after we watched the drunks fighting outside his apartment and he wouldn’t leave his mom alone. I remember Ruth Ann talking about how tough the prostitutes looked and acted. I remember Ian being so glad he wasn’t stuck copywriting in a cubicle in Chicago. Of how much more free they were with kids and families seeking joy together as they slalomed between drunks and prostitutes and adolescent hormones.

A handful of dust.

Cary Reynolds Elementary School. Our fear: a gulag of incompetence where the Lord of the Flies sits on a throne made up of my children’s futures. But of course, nothing of the sort. Standardized testing showing that they hold their own against everyone in the country. No matter how close the country club is to the garage, or high the gates on the gated community, you don’t get better grades from expensive fear. Better yet, we got friends. Comrades in pencils in a PTA.

A handful of dust.

An Open Table. A sanctuary of idealism. A daring hope that somehow the Kingdom can actually take root and win. But if it is, the seedling is very small in all the concrete. But still hope fills the air. The Gospel. Conversations in relationships with bikes and beads and movie screens. Changing and evolving becoming something new.  Something for now.

A handful of dust.

Dust that needs to be in Washington DC. Dust that can be an altar to my God. Dust, a statement of re-creation, re-form. Dust to dust. Instead of knocking the dust off my feet in judgment, I sprinkled it wherever I went – buildings, hallways, and offices. A grain here. A grain there.

Idealized, infectious dust bringing the outside in, the powerless in their least form to power. Because this place can, if God wills it, be an instrument of righteousness and healing. This place of power, corruption, ideals and idolatry can be redeemed in moments like this. Or not.

But I took that which has shaped me. A handful of insignificance. To build an altar of so much love and being loved that it makes my heart ache to think about it. Of people who never intended that I should go to Washington DC. To build an altar of their dust.


Tim Issacson is a former pastor who followed the Lord’s lead in relocating his church and family into this neighborhood, and is being taught by his neighbors to love, laugh, and live in a much more Christlike way.  He is the Executive Director of Immigrant Hope – Atlanta, a nonprofit that provides low-cost immigration legal services, education, and advocacy for immigrants in the Chamblee-Doraville section of Atlanta, Georgia. He is also an immigration reform field mobilizer for Georgia with the Christian Community Development Association.

Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated. 

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2 Responses to Dust to DC: A True Story Based On A Truer Story

  1. Tim Campbell says:

    Knowing people, knowing immigrants breaks down the walls of hostility. Orlin, the young man who passed away, qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and was in process with my law firm I am with. I look forward to immigration reform and to soon be working with Tim at Immigrant Hope – Atlanta.

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