mi amiga

One of my early mentors and forever heroes was the woman I was assigned to work under in my first days inside the shelter. I was immediately taken by her strength, her ability to understand the multiple issues facing homeless families and manage to hold them close until the seams came together. She was fierce in her commitment you will do this mija, you can do anything hermano she would speak with passion and folks would listen. They would listen and do as she said and by the time they left us they had jobs and homes and money in the bank. Over the years I watched her change more lives than I could ever count and she did it entirely from the heart.

In many ways it was her calling, she was a single mom who'd fled a terrible situation, abuse and more and so one day she took her kids and ran, she ran and ran and for awhile and many years she was scared, she was alone and on her own and without a home. Yet she was a warrior, she fought for her family and for herself and used all she had to help others and over the years things came together, she ended up working at the place that sheltered her, she stabilized her life and had a roof over her head and then she gave back, did she ever give back. She gave back more than anyone I've ever met.

We had crazy times, she and I, like the time she stepped between me and the guy with the knife, the one with the wild eyes. As calm as I'd ever heard her she looked at him square, mijo, put that knife down and the blue eyed man dropped that knife where he stood. One other time a little boy was so troubled he decided to jump out a window but she was there, she was there and she caught him as he fell and she held on three stories high as he dangled out the window for endless minutes until others could come and help. I remember after she was crying and she said I was so afraid I couldn't hold on but I said God, you keep my fingers strong and He did.

There aren't words for the love and respect and awe I feel for her and have felt for her for 12 years or more. There aren't enough words for how much of an impact she'd had on others, for the thousands of children she's fed and clothed and housed. There aren't enough words to describe her grace of spirit and her ability to mother.

But there's a part of this story I forgot to tell you. Back when she was fleeing that terrible situation she was in, the man who wanted her dead, she grabbed her babies and she ran. She ran so far she ran all the way from Mexico to here. She ran her in the dark and she emerged in the light. She's a citizen now, she pays her taxes and owns a home and has for many years. She is grateful every single day to this country, this country who in her eyes saved her life.

Arizona, you've broken my heart. You've broken it because you are blind, because you are afraid, and because if you'd arrested my friend all those years ago on the night she saved her own life she'd never been able to save so many others and we'd all be worse off today.

You've done a bad thing, Arizona. You've done all of us a really bad thing. Shame on you.

Shame on you.

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