It doesn’t happen often, but now and then, people have an odd reaction when they hear that I work at an orphanage in Mexico. They say, “I’d rather help kids in America.” This statement brings up so many uncomfortable and unhealthy issues. The snarky side of me really wants to say, “Great, what are you doing for kids in America?” I can almost guarantee they aren’t doing anything for anybody.
The idea that we should only help people in our own country goes against everything Jesus taught. We are called to help wherever there is a need. The fact that mankind has set up arbitrary lines and fences across landmasses doesn’t change the fact that there are needs everywhere. When I get asked, “Why Mexico?” my response is, “This is where my feeble efforts can have more of an impact.” In much of the US, children in need have a variety of safety nets, both private and government-run. In most of the world, kids fall through the cracks. The other reason I like serving here is “return on investment,” a small donation in the US can help, the same amount used in poorer countries can dramatically change lives. We need to be helping wherever we feel called, and where we can have the most significant impact.
The bigger question about where and who to serve is, in spite of our first reaction, what’s the difference? More and more, it’s becoming a little “gray” as to what nationality is. I don’t want to go down the road of the current immigration debate, but it’s not always clear where a child should be. Questions of nationality are not always easily figured out.
Although our children’s home operates in Mexico, we sometimes find that a child in our care is, in reality, a legal American citizen who wound up in Mexico. It’s always interesting to see the reaction to that, both from the child and from others who find out. It shifts identity, expectations, and entitlement. We are in large part defined by our history; it’s who we are. Our heritage also identifies us, it’s where we come from. But sometimes it’s hard to pin down. A child born in the US to someone undocumented is legally a US citizen; it’s in our constitution. If the parent winds up back in Mexico for whatever reason, what should that child’s nationality be considered? They are legal US citizens with all of the rights and privileges that brings; they are also Mexican by blood. But why should that matter if the child is in need?
Years ago, we received a cute little blond-haired, blue-eyed, little boy. Wow, the drama that caused. He was an American, born outside of Chicago, abandoned by a parent on drugs with a neighbor here in Baja. It was interesting to see and listen to the reactions people had. We had a few American children in our home at the time but because this one child was “white” people went crazy. Someone called Child Protective Serves in the US, a network news crew showed up, it was a big deal. We kept asking ourselves, “Why is this child more deserving of attention just because of his skin tone?” “Why is everyone stepping over other needy children to get to this one with blue eyes?” We know the answers, but it’s still frustrating. Because of the attention this one child received, within 30 days he was placed with a family in Southern California. A child going back to the US almost never happens, and never quickly. This little boy just happened to win the genetic lottery. Why are the other children not deserving of a healthy loving home?
Ultimately, we are all the same family. The plot of dirt we happen to be born on should not impact whether or not we’re deserving of help, opportunities, and people who care for us. I’m not blind to the differences between countries, but if we share one Heavenly Father, aren’t we all by definition one family? If we have the right perspective, if we see the bigger picture, we need to be working to balance the scales. We need to raise children up, wherever they’re from, with opportunities to grow, learn, and become all that God has laid out for them to be.
Should we be helping kids in America? Sure. We should also be helping wherever there is a child in need, wherever there is an injustice, wherever God is looking down and asking, “Who will help this child of mine?”
Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
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