When I googled Tucson last winter/spring after applying to the Tucson Borderlands YAV site, I learned that it is a pretty large city, there is a beautiful National park, and there are some pretty cool festivals in Tucson. When I arrived in Tucson, I was so shocked to see a saguaro cactus right outside of the airport. During the week of YAV orientation in Tucson, Alison took us all outside of the YAV house to our back yard and showed us the four mountain ranges that serve as a compass for the city.
The Catalina Mountains are north and they are right behind the house. In Asheville, locals are always complaining about the tourists that are in town all the time it seems. Tucson has snowbirds who come to live in Tucson for the winter months. At The Inn, we have several volunteers who are snowbirds but will volunteer a couple of times a week for the few months they are in Tucson! I think I prefer Tucson’s snowbirds to Asheville’s tourists just because at least the snowbirds I have met get involved with the Tucson community usually through volunteer work.
Tucson is a very warm city. It is very welcoming, sort of like if a city could give you a hug. The weather is also very warm. At least there isn’t a lot of humidity, but it is still very hot. It does still get cool. I only packed one pair of jeans and was very unprepared for the night time coolness and winter weather. One of my favorite things to experience was being out later one night in the early fall and feeling how quickly the temperature dropped without the sun!
Tucson is very bike-friendly. I was incredibly nervous about biking, but after seeing nice big bike lanes, bike crosswalks, and bike boulevards, I felt better. I still prefer not to bike on busy or main roads, but it is usually easy to avoid that because I can find a less busy street that will get me to the same place. During orientation, I took a bike safety class. That also helped to calm my nerves about biking.
I think my favorite part about Tucson is the sun. It just seems to spread everywhere. Even in the winter. I have never seen or felt sun like that. The sunsets are also spectacular. There are so many colors and you can just see the sun’s rays extend as the sun disappears behind the mountains. I have learned many things from Tucson, and can’t wait to learn and experience more.
The Desert by Haley W
At the beginning of March, as TBYAVs we were about to embark on our sojourn retreat and were asked to reflect on the what the desert meant to us. We also reflected on the times the desert is talked about in the Bible. In the Bible the desert is a place of challenge and where we see Jesus tempted. As I’ve been in a program that has the opportunity to bear witness to border issues, the desert has shown again and again to be a place of challenge, death, violence and separation.
However, I have continued to learn the desert is a place of extremes. Very hot days, and in the winter very cold nights. Within these extremes I see the opposing sides of the spectrum. This year a common practice for our check ins has been the Examen. A time in which most often we reflect on the questions: what has been something that’s been life giving and what is something that has been life draining? Or similar questions maybe where have you felt God, where have you felt an absence of God? It’s easy to perhaps see one of these as the “good” or the “bad” because we live in a world that often thinks in binaries. However, I appreciate the acknowledge of these opposing presences whether they are seen as good or bad, or makes someone feel more joy rather than sadness, we can appreciate them as parts of our life and existence.
So though it’s been more prevalent thinking of the challenges and suffering present in the desert, the hurt, the death, the separation, there is the presence of life, and resilience and hope. There is the need for God to nourish the desert, it is a place that both needs God’s attention and where his presence can be felt.
Let’s Imagine by Laura H
How do we change the world?
In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, adrienne marie brown makes a wonderful point about the ways we can use science fiction writing as a way to imagine what the future world could be like. What we could change to create the world we want. She sees science fiction writing as an act of resistance.
I love this idea! And I love spending time daydreaming about what the future could be. My future, the world’s future. Being focused on what’s next is part of my nature as a 7 on the Enneagram.
Because my world has slowed down during this pandemic is giving me lots of time to think and dream. My thoughts have been very focused on what the world will look like after this pandemic passes, whenever that may be. Many people are asking how to get back to normal, but what even is normal and why do we want that?
What I see as normal, thanks to watching many videos and reading articles (listed below) to educate my opinion, was completely broken to begin with. This system of capitalism, competition, and corporations aren’t helping people. Many people work tirelessly to make ends meet and when they don’t meet because of so many things working against lower and middle class people, it is the people that have failed, not the systems.
But the systems are failing. They have been failing many people for a long time, but the Coronavirus has amplified these failures.
Systemic failure is why a disproportionate number of black and brown people are dying from the virus. It is why there isn’t enough PPE in hospitals. This broken, capitalistic system is why there is even talk “restarting the economy” when it isn’t safe to leave your house without a mask on your face. Because capitalism tells us that profits matter more than people. It has always been this way, but that is at the forefront of conversations recently.
So, I have no desire to return to that version of normal. Because none of that should be normal.
Instead I am going to do daydreaming about changes that can happen. I hope these changes include Universal Healthcare and paid sick leave. Better transportation systems that help the earth live. Business practices that are focused on people instead of how to make the most money.
This world also needs to include liberation from the power of white supremacy and colonialism. A world without borders of empire. That’s one of my favorite thoughts. It was inspired by this video. A great quote I heard today “Equality says we should all get a piece of the pie. Liberation says we need a new pie.”
I think it is evident that big change is necessary. But what does a better world look like? A more liberated one? This is a great time to imagine what we want to return to and what is best left out.
How do we change the world? We can start by imagining what is possible. So let’s imagine together!
Some resources for further education that helped form my ideas:
* Disclaimer: Please disregard any grammatical errors, words are hard right now, do not even get me started with my constant struggle with grammar!**
Last week, my roommates committed to working on a shark puzzle for the second time this year. I really hope that YAVA’s from Tucson will read this blog so that I can hopefully identify the origin story of this horrendous puzzle. This weapon of madness is a JIGSAW puzzle filled with many different shapes and sizes of pieces; ranging from large like a poker chip and smaller than a pencil eraser (note: these may be broken chunks of other pieces). The box says that the puzzle is 800+ pieces (not an exact number) and the border is curved into the outline of sea and Sharks. As previously stated, we attempted this puzzle once before but gave up due to how complicated it was. Now though, as we are “sheltering in place” and rarely leave the house, we were committed. What better time to be frustrated with a puzzle?
As I think about the frustrations I have with this puzzle however, I am wondering how much of it can be a metaphor and outlet for the anxiety I have around the Corona Virus. This virus has many unknown and everchanging variables: who is the targeted population it is affecting, is it small immune-compromised children, or elderly adults? Will it last a month, a year; are the precautions we are taking necessary? How is the virus spreading, what boundaries are necessary and which ones are fear-induced? Do we trust fear or does it lead to chaos?
The puzzle was a slow start, we grumbled at how none of the pieces seemed to fit, it did not make sense, but we remained hopeful that maybe the more pieces we got to work together, the better it would get. We just needed some time. This is similar to how the U.S. was reacting three LONG weeks ago about the pandemic. It’s fine, the affected people are mostly overseas, wash your hands, no problem.
Then the panic set in. The more pieces that fit together the more we noticed how unprepared we were. Of the 800+ pieces that were supposed to be there, only maybe 400 seemed to be. Slowly but surely, panic grew as more and more pieces seemed to be missing. Missing just like the toilet paper in the stores. My boss joked to me on a Costco run that she would just have to use paper towels and discard the paper “Mexico style”- all because some idiot thought they could make an easy buck by buying up the stocks.
After the panic, came dread and lack of hope. Why are we working on a puzzle that will never get done? What better do we have to do? Sure, we are too far back to quit now but also- what is the point? This is the phase I am currently struggling through with the virus and it affected most of my week last week. Why dedicate so many hours on something that will inevitably be canceled, postponed, or extended. Sure, it is scary right now because we DON’T KNOW. But eventually, things will fall into place and everything will close down and hopefully, then people will start to understand and help one another. … This is the goal- but where is the follow-through? Right now, my community partner organization is representing 53 clients who are in immigration detention centers. Courts across the country are closing down and inmates that prove unharmful to society are being released so that the disease does not spread through mass confinement. Our clients that are not in detention, all have their hearings postponed for the next month. Judges, mostly old white men, have taken time off from work and refuse to come to court for the risk of germs spreading. Yet, my boss who should for many reasons be sheltering at home is still having to go to Eloy and Florence to cover hearings. Our clients are not being released from detention centers and our volunteers are working overtime to file applications to make it happen.
Meanwhile, I wonder what’s the point? Won’t we slowly but surely realize (like we have been) the impacts this virus is causing? It is a TERRIBLE thing to admit and I see my privilege in the statement. I can afford to look for a better day and hope for change. I work for a program that looks out for my safety and although my job is essential, asks that I work from home. I do not have to worry about catching a virus because I do not have to go anywhere or see anybody. I do not have to wait in a cell until someone realizes I am a person of worth. I, I do not have to face the fear that most likely, that moment will never come. I do not know, nor will I ever realize, what it is like to have society hate me because of the color of my skin and the way I sought refuge from unexplainable horror. I will never have to put into words and have to justify why my life has value. Instead, I can choose to sleep in an extra hour or spend my weekends binging Netflix. I do not have to worry if, by the time people do understand, it is too late.
We stuck with the puzzle. We knew it was lacking pieces but it was not as many as we thought and although it is no longer on our dining room table, we left it mostly put together and are hoping that in doing other puzzles in our house, we can find more of the missing pieces. There is no throwing in the towel with this virus, it is not a puzzle we can put back in its box. So, we have to remain hopeful, I remain hopeful. That this experience is more than a puzzle metaphor and that this time brings us all deep reflection.
Today marks the beginning of week two of self-isolation for the Tucson YAV house. Last week, because of COVID-19, none of us went to work. We all worked from home as best we can, but for me, it is difficult to do home repairs for others while I staying in my own home.
Because I have so much free time these days, my plan for not working was to do some reading, writing, learning new skills, and completing personal tasks that had been put on the back burner for a while. I was ready to have a “productive” week.
But what does that even mean?
I made a daily schedule. That overwhelmed me. Even though I had at least a week of time to accomplish my list, it felt like too much to get done. Also, what if one or two of the days I was tired and didn’t want to do what I had laid out on my schedule… What if this time didn’t accomplish everything I expected it to?
This year has challenged my idea of productivity. I have always thought of a productive day as one where I turn a to-do list into a to-done list. A productive conversation is one where there is a set outcome and action steps decided, right?
But that is a version of productivity that doesn’t work for me any more. Honestly, I think the modern American version of “productivity” is fake.
As a YAV house, we have weekly community check ins. Sometimes these meetings address specific issues: budgeting, community chores, schedules etc. But other times we take time to have conversations that are really needed, but don’t have a defined out come. We talk about how each of us is doing, how we are feeling about our community, work, and families. Some times there are lots of laughs during this and other times it is more serious. All of this is good. All of this is necessary. All of this is productive.
A few weeks ago, while building a ramp one day for a CHRPA client, we sat down for a lunch break. Usually this takes about 30 minutes, but that day, the client’s caregiver struck up a conversation and we sat and talked for close to an hour. He also talked to us as we were working.
Sure, this slowed us down, if we were more focused and worked faster, we could have gotten farther along on that days project. But every moment of that day was fruitful. We engaged shared stories and engaged in community building, which is always good.
But what about times where there is nothing that gets done. No conversations. No tasks accomplished. Just stillness.
My recent experience with that was a desert sojourn retreat. I spent 3 days and 2 nights camping alone in the desert with only a journal and a bible with me to keep my occupied. While I could have read the Bible the whole time or journaled for hours on end, I didn’t. Most of the 54 hours I spent alone, I simply sat and stared. I looked at the world around me. I took moments to just breath. Moments to appreciate how small I am in comparison to the world and to reflect on what my role is in the world. And I read the book of John. But that is all that I did in more than two days time! And it was wonderful!
So I am holding on to that now as I launch into week two of not going to work at CHRPA and not being able to leave the house much. I am going to check in with myself to know what I need. To try to get some things done as they can happen, but to also give myself a lot of grace in what is accomplished. And to have time to enjoy stillness and peace around me, even if it is just for a few moments.
I’m sure many of you are trying to be “productive” in this strange time too, but I hope that you will also consider what that means and allow yourself grace as well. And try to find some stillness in these crazy times. Stay well friends!
Solitude in Community by Haley W
At the beginning of March, which in this time of COVID-19 now feels so long ago, my fellow Tucson Borderland YAV’s and I went to Cascabel, where we stayed in the canyon that hosts sojourn experience. These are experiences to be in solitude for an amount of time. We spent our first night together but once we woke up in the morning we headed out to our solo campsites for two nights and three days of solo time before returning to our group for one last night together to celebrate and reflect.
There was something unique about our experience, even different from the sojourners who typically come to this canyon for time of solitude. Though we still practiced solitude, this was something we were getting to practice while also in community. This was something I reflected on while in my alone time. As I saw each sunset, I wondered if Laura was enjoying it just as much as I was. As I shivered at night, I wondered if others were also having trouble sleeping through the night. As I drank my coffee, I wondered if Hannah was also enjoying a cup of coffee. As I journaled I wondered if others were processing what they wanted to in this time and space. I wondered if my community was sharing in the same joys of being surrounded by nature, I wondered if they share similar fears of being alone, if something were to happen. I wondered if they felt comforted knowing Alison was bring us water and checking on us by coming to the tree at the base of each of our camps where we’ve tied rags to signal we are ok. I wondered if they also felt empowered by being in nature and being able to have less pressure from the rest of the world, and the ability to only listen to the needs of their body. I ate when I needed to, I used the restroom when I needed to, I rested when I was tired, I returned to my tent when I needed to relief from the sun.
There were other powerful experiences during my solo time I could reflect on or share, but in three weeks time a lot has changed, as the world faces this global health crisis. But this experience of solitude in community, continues to resonate with me, as my YAV house, the YAV program, the city of Tucson, Pima County, the state of Arizona, the United States, and countries across the globe are experiencing this crisis, and members of all these communities are also being asked to isolate themselves from one another to keep each other safe. We are isolating as a community and for the community.
Though at this time it’s been easy to feel isolated and alone, I’ve found comfort in the ability to creatively feel connected and in community. As I talk to my parents and friends, I hear the different fears and anxieties we share. As I watch musicians perform instagram live stream concerts, I see many other fans tuning in, showing me there’s many other people like me wanting to connect with music during this time. I feel a lot of comfort being part of a program, with a site coordinator and board checking in with us and offering support as we navigate and process this, in the middle of our YAV year.
As a house, we have made jokes that our sojourn retreat has prepared us to sit around and do nothing. But really, at least for me our time at our sojourn retreat has given me ways to reflect and see the beauty of community that is not always visible or means being in physical presence or constant communication, rather the beauty in community is even in complete solitude or mandated orders to shelter in place, it’s presence continues to be powerful and felt. Also always wash your hands.
Girls Just Wanna Plumb by Haley W
Abi and I walked into a local family owned plumbing store in town. Compared to Naughton’s and Home Depot this store is tiny, instead of roaming through the aisles to find plumbing parts, you walk up to the counter and ask Bruce for what you need. He brings it right to you. There is free cold water to make sure plumbers are staying hydrated.
Abi and I walked into Bonnets, Stems, and Accessories to find a Price Pfister shower valve, we were excited to walk in, knowing the service would be so friendly and the store would more likely have the part we needed that is harder to find at other stores.
A man walked into this same plumbing store and was not expecting to see two females in this plumbing small store. Once again unlike Naughton’s or Home Depot we were in close proximity he didn’t see us walking down the aisle where he could, just quietly wonder what we were trying to find at Home Depot, keeping his comments to himself.
A man walked into this small store and before the door even closed Abi and I hear this man ask “are y’all female plumbers.. I didn’t know there were female plumbers?” We had just told Bruce what we needed and he had turned to look at his stock, but as soon as he heard this man’s comment he turned back around and let this man know, actually there are quite a bit of female plumbers. In fact Bruce’s mom has been in construction since the 80’s here and has had to have “bigger balls” than all the men in this field. Bruce told him that men learned quickly to be “more afraid of her than an 80 pound bulldog,” she meant business and knew what she was doing.
This man of course was shocked to hear that women were in this field, but he figured out it did make sense that women could do plumbing now, after all technology and tools have really developed to make it easy enough now for women to do plumbing. This has been the most direct comment from a man I’ve heard in my six months in this male dominated field of home repair and construction, questioning the ability of females to do the same work he does, just as well as he can.
Many people seem shocked to see that women are in this field. Some comments men make are more subtle when they are curious about women in this field. We have many questions about whether or not we are the crew that will do the work, or if we are just the assessors. We are often asked if we need help loading lumber onto our rack when we have five boards left after already loading our first twenty boards on our own. These comments don’t always sound like they are questioning our ability to do these things on our own, but also when I’m paired with male staff, I don’t receive these same questions. I am just left to wonder what assumptions or expectations are being made by men about me in this field.
Despite these comments in only six months I’ve started to gain confidence in my abilities, I’ve installed a handful of furnaces and water heaters, I have helped build the longest ramp that CHRPA has built, I’ve installed many kitchen and lav faucets and re-plumbed leaking water lines. I’ve learned how to use the many tools that do in fact make the job easier; I’ve learned how to use pipe wrenches, snakes, a rehau and wirsbo, and how to solder. These make it easy to make connections in water lines, and be able to do work faster.
I love working in a field that hasn’t traditionally been male dominated. I love getting to use power tools that make me feel empowered. I love working with other women in the field. I love wearing my pink work boots that make me feel like I can express my gender and the pride I have in being a woman. I love when female clients we work for are comforted by the fact that women are coming into their homes to help them. I love that female clients think we’re badass and rooting us on when we’re working.
The smallest moments with female clients are truly special, they remind me of the many other times in my life I have felt surrounded by sisterhood. The community I have found with women in my life has been incredibly healing and powerful in not allowing me to feel alone. The comments and feeling uncomfortable with some of the men I interact with in this field still at times is something I continue to struggle with, but finding community with women within my work brings me joy, and the desire to continue to use my strengths and abilities as a women.
I am a Migrant by Laura H
Two weeks after being in Tucson I went to a dinner event. While there I was sitting at a table with four people around my age and one older man. The older man asked every person at that table where they were from except he skipped over me.
It was uncomfortable not being asked because I had been in the city for two weeks while everyone else had either lived in Tucson their whole life or a large portion of it. The man asking questions and I were the only white people at the table and the only two people who didn’t have to say where we were from. Being white, it was assumed by him that we belong. Even though in this instance, I most definitely didn’t belong. And even 7 months later, I still don’t belong.
I am a migrant. I don’t belong in Tucson. I don’t belong to this city and this city doesn’t belong to me. I am just a temporary resident. But I don’t get questioned about this. In general, it is acceptable for me to be here, whether permanently or temporarily because I am white and I have a US passport.
In claiming an identity as a migrant, I have began to wonder many things.
Why am I not called a migrant? I am praised for moving and traveling. I am told that I am “adventurous and brave.” But the people I have met who have to wait in Mexico while they petition for asylum are braver than me. I am not brave enough to move to a new country even though I have the choice, yet these people don’t have a choice. Their only option is asylum and they have endured much more than I have. They are brave and have taken a big journey in hopes of a safer and better life.
Why is it beautiful and amazing for the Monarch butterfly to migrate across North America every year but its not ok for humans to do the same? Butterflies don’t need to be documented. There are no restrictions on where they can go and how they can live their lives. Why do humans need that?
Am I a migrant that is “here to take people’s jobs”? The YAV program works hard to ensure that we are volunteering in supportive roles that wouldn’t be filled by locals were we not here, but where is the guarantee? I am only in Tucson to work for a year and leave. But it’s socially acceptable for me to do this. If I were born in Mexico would it still be acceptable?
Why am I “legal?” Why can I travel 2,200 miles to be here in Tucson to work only for a year, while many people from the state of Sonora, Mexico (Arizona’s southern border) can’t travel the mere 150 miles to live in Tucson. Or even visit family and friends for a day. Many Sonoran’s would be considered “illegal” if they were in this city, but it is much closer to their home than mine.
Why can’t we all be free? Free to move and live. Free to work and be in places where our lives aren’t in danger. Why do we have borders and walls restricting the movement of people and animals? Movement that has been happening before recorded history. Movement on land that doesn’t even belong to white people to begin with.
Why do I get to migrate? What is the difference between myself and the migrant many are fighting against other than my skin color and my nationality?
I have so many questions and so few answers. The more I seek the less I find. But I don’t want to stop seeking and questioning the injustices toward too many migrants in my country.
Flash Blog #2
Flash blogs are short posts written to a shared prompt during community discussion time -- with a ten minute time limit. This practice helps us get used to blogging, stay in communication with our followers, and challenge ourselves to not overthink how we share with the world. See each YAV's response to this shared prompt below!
PROMPT: What is one thing that stuck with you from Agua Prieta yesterday? Feelings, Thoughts, Emotions…
On January 23rd, the TBYAVs went to Agua Prieta with the co-moderator of the PCUSA church and a couple of pastors from Tucson.
When we got to Douglass/Agua Prieta, we immediately went to the U.S. side of the border wall where we had a bible study and time for prayer. On the Mexico side of the border wall, there were friends gathered. With the border wall between us, we formed a circle with our neighbors. We read Ephesians 2:11-22 in Spanish, then in English, and were given the opportunity to share thoughts about what we had just read/heard. At the end of our time at the wall, we all held hands to pray together. This image stuck with me all day. The people at the ends of our semi-circles crouched down to hold hands through the wall. There were huge rolls of concertino wire above their heads. The bible verse we read says:
“For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”
Christ has broken down the wall. Christ has crossed the borders. How can I do the same? We are all united in God’s love and peace for all people. Yet we still uphold this border between our neighbors.
Yesterday was the fifth time went to Agua Prieta, Sonora. We have made it a routine to go once a month to attend an event or visit our roommate Hannah. It cracks me up that this has become so routine, yet, our trip is still met with the same initial shock and we all are left just as emotionally exhausted as we return. I am left with a feeling of confusion. What are all these trips suppose to mean? Are they meant to get easier? Are we supposed to interact more and build connections? ARE WE building connections? Are we LEARNING anything?
This last question has been sticking in my head a lot. This trip to AP was different from most others. Our travel was more than just us YAVS and it was more than us and Alison, we were accompanied this time by three guests, one of whom was the co-moderator of the presbyterian church- or for those that aren’t presbyterian and know what a co-moderator is, we lovingly referred to her as “The Pope of the Presbyterian Church” (apparently this title is not known to her). We were given one day to help show Cindy around AP and introduce her to Frontera de Cristo and the other community partners. So, we relieved the week we spent in AP last November. We went to a few of the mission partners, we heard from the Frontera board, from the Migrant resource center, and we went to CAME the shelter for asylum seekers. We started our day at 7:45 am and made it back to the house at 10:30 pm last night.
Around 2 pm Cindy had announced that with the time change, the jet lag, and the information overload, she was getting tired. At that moment it sunk- though we don’t fit it into a day, every day here is impactful. Every day, we are learning and growing and being shaped. It is a lot- and yesterday, I realized its okay to be exhausted. It is okay to need rest and to not constantly be absorbed by the important and impactful work that’s been happening. Though- this won’t change my feelings about work boundaries :).
Yesterday we traveled back to Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico for the day. We were traveling with one of the Co-Moderators of the General Assembly, so the point of this visit was for her to experience the borderlands. What is happening and how the Presbyterian Church is responding.
Because of the delegation that we did in November and other various experiences I have had while here, much of what we were talking about yesterday wasn’t new to me. At one point I was even questioning what I was getting out of this. “What is the point in me being here today?”
Our last stop of the day was at CAME, a shelter for migrants to stay in while they wait to make their assylum petition. I had been in this shelter before and heard about the good work taking place there, but yesterday, in a few moments of downtime, I was drawn to a mural painted on the wall that I hadn’t seen before.
The mural was of “La Bestia” a train that travels regularly from southern to northern Mexico. It is a common way for migrants to travel. The mural depicted migrants sitting atop the train and with them sat Jesus.
He wasn’t doing anything other than sitting and being present with the people on the train. Being present is part of what Jesus asks us to do and that is what is happening at CAME.
But what struck me more was how many different versions of the human experience there are. When I think of people catching a ride on the roof of a train, I think of the 1920s or earlier. That doesn’t feel like a 21st century thing to me.
The point of me being in Agua Prieta yesterday may not have been to be exposed to 100 new things and challenging ideas like it has been the last few times I have visited the city. But I can still learn and recognize that the people sitting in the tents along the border, the people doing puzzles and waiting for dinner at CAME, the people on La Bestia currently all have vastly different life experiences than I do in life.
The moments of looking at this mural brought me back to the reality that I am privileged to be born a white woman from in the United States. I carry that privileged with me everywhere I go. And I need to open my heart more to embrace everyone in all of their experiences.
As a Tucson Borderlands YAV, who resides in Tucson, about once a month we visit Agua Prieta. In Tucson we are still in the Borderlands, however every time we are able to go to Agua Prieta/Douglas a border town in Arizona, we are at the heart of the borderlands.
Every time I’ve gone to Agua Prieta I’ve felt really moved by the different bible studies we’ve attended. Yesterday we had a bible study at the wall with fellow hermanas y hermanos de Cristo. They sent us a picture from their side of the border. They had a beautiful mural on the wall, we sent a photo back that had an aggressive amount of barbed wire on it blocking our view of the community we were getting to have that time of reflection with. This Bible study was held in both languages, and was extremely powerful. Each Bible study I’ve attended held by Frontera de Cristo is the most I’ve felt the presence of Christ and community. Being able to turn to the Bible to a place of justice and liberation and at times a source of hope, has been powerful. In Agua Prieta I see people being able to find strength in the Bible that shows stories of people thousands of years ago fighting the same injustices.
Sunsets are stunning in Tucson. It’s a well known fact that I was hearing about long before I arrived here in August. But that doesn’t change how much I am continuously amazed by them.
I recently heard from a former YAV that during her last month of YAVing, she made it a goal to watch the sunset every night. As a fellow lover of sunsets, this stuck in my brain and I recalled it last week at the same time that I was thinking about the fact that I have one month left until I turn 25.
Turning 25 has put me into a small quarter life crisis. I realized mere minutes into this year how old I would be. It isn’t so much of me thinking I’ll be old and questioning what I am doing with my life. It’s a time to reflect on life and joke about my grey hairs.
These feelings and the idea of taking time to watch the sunset merged in my head and left me asking, “Can I see 25 more sunsets before I turn 25?”
It’s been a little over a week since first posing that question and I have taken time to notice 5 sunsets, but to really sit and watch 3 of them.
Tonight as I sat on the front porch and watched the light outside dim, I thought of a few things.
One was how it was nice to have a few minutes in the evening to sit, breathe, and enjoy nature. I have been thinking a lot about what spiritual practices I have or could have. One that was suggested to me was to take time to sit still and breathe. Is this moment of watching the sky change colors and reflecting on my day a spiritual practice? Maybe.
Another thought was of intentionality. That is a big part of the YAV experience. We are asked to embrace and intentional Christian community as a YAV group. And the practice of simple living involves making many intentional choices and having intentional conversations.
But sunsets are a different kind of intentional. For one, I cannot change when and how they happen. So if I want to watch it. I have to be ready and make that time. It is going to happen with or without me being present which is humbling. Additionally, I can choose to use that time to pause and think or I can use that time to notice the sky and keep moving. The choice to sit and notice has to be intentional. Not just with the sunset, but with all things happening around me.
Finally, I thought of change. It was amazing me that with every moment the sky looked different. I could look away for a just a moment, but when I looked back, there would be new colors.
This is comforting. It reminds me that in this broken world that we are all participating in, change is possible. It may not happen as quickly as the sunset colors change in the sky, but those quick, noticable changes only happen because the sun is moving slowly though the sky all day to get to that point.
The position of the sun is ever changing. So are we. Hopefully for the better.
I have 31 days until I turn 25. In that time, I will watch 22 more sunsets and be intentional about enjoying every one. And hopefully I can take time to reflect on what changes I wish to enact in my world in this coming phase of my life.