I was invited to the Copa Gold cup soccer matches this past Sunday at Bank of America stadium. It was an amazing experience. Most of the fans were clearly Mexican supporters. I mean, I am thrilled they beat Martinique 3-2, and the win was the cherry on the top of a festive, fun and entertaining evening. Had they lost, I would have run to get away from a potential stampede.
It was not difficult to spot who was there for their home country. They are all kitted out in green or white Mexican soccer team shirts and garb, faces painted in the national colors of the flag, boom boxes, Mexican flags flying, horns blaring, and many with masks. There were sombreros galore. They arrived really early and stayed well into the night. I also got to witness the Mexican wave … a crowd inspired “stand-up at just the right time and wave arms” as the momentum circumvents the field, much to the delight of all concerned. Growing up in South Africa, Mexican waves had just started to make their appearances at day/night cricket matches, when the going was slow. It was far from slow Sunday, and the waves kept on coming…
What struck me was how much camaraderie existed between seemingly complete strangers. They were out to enjoy themselves… Respectful, friendly, law abiding, and not overly rowdy. Frankly entertaining for this Anglo spectator. Families and friends were just hanging out together, singing, chanting, young children in their fathers arms and others in tow mothers guided them through the carnival atmosphere outside the stadium … and certainly inside. I have not seen so many similar happy immigrants together in one place. They were delighted to be there … together, without seemingly a care in the world. I had to marvel at the contrast from Nascar, basketball or football spectators, on so many levels.
The local press is full of stories about the harsh treatment of children, the caravans of immigrants at the border, and the dramatic rise in the Hispanic population in our Queen City as the 2020 census nears. One has to admire these peoples tenacity and perseverance. Families are here for a reason, even though most would prefer to be back home. That’s a true statement. This deeply divided city, nonetheless, is a great place to live, and a paradise compared to the trouble they are fleeing in their homelands south of our border. You see, these are our city neighbors, escaping unspeakable violence and persecution. If my family lived like that, I too would pack up and leave for a better future. I believe I did in fact do that. Therefore, as long as they are here, we should welcome them and treat them with respect and dignity. They have something the rest of us don’t seemingly possess. We might benefit from taking a page from their playbooks. In our line of refugee and immigrant ministry work, at LHCC, we meet a lot of awesome immigrant children and their concerned parents. We love on them and try to help with everything we possibly can and tend to their needs. They are grateful people.
What follows is a short, sobering perspective on what we ought to see with our neighbors, regardless of whether they are from Mexico or Timbuktu.
Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break. Believe the best rather than the worst. People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them. Remember that true friendship is the basis of lasting relationship. (Author unknown)
These are people, not problems. They are our neighbors. Who wouldn’t want to live in peace and raise their children as best they can, in a safer environment? Let’s pray they are successful in school and in life, for a better future for everyone.
Until next time, I am
Learning Help Centers of Charlotte
June 25, 2019