Lessons and Reflections from a day at Occupy ICE PDX

If no one has told you this today dear reader, I love you. You are a miracle of nature, a child of light, and by your birthright you are entitled to love and compassion.

I have the privilege to volunteer my skills as a mental health counselor to heal and support the selfless volunteers protesting the caging of children, separation of families, and the intergenerational trauma being created to refugees at our border. For those of you unfamiliar with the Occupy Movement, it’s powerful. The people create self-sustaining communities with healthy meals, medical care, child care, wellness services, and so much more. There is so much love there, all for the cause of helping those less fortunate than themselves. I met some incredible souls and want to share just a few of their stories. Details about these people have been masked to preserve their confidentiality.

She was once a child immigrant herself, now she’s a proud citizen. She’s a mother, a Master’s student, and works to pay the bills; I’m in awe of anyone who just does one of those things. Her family fled the terrors of Soviet occupation to create a better life here in the United States. Though she is busy trying to create a better life for herself, she cannot stand idly by after learning about the horrors happening here that remind her of her childhood. I spoke to her about burnout, about the need to restore our energy, and held space for the historical trauma. Mostly, I marveled at her bravery and determination to do what she knows to be right despite all that is happening in her world. Her energy and passion is a gift to us all.

A grandfather now in his seventies made the drive from the other side of Oregon. Age has provided him wisdom in addition to aching bones and joints; he’s slept on the sidewalks, participated in active protests and is doing his part to contribute. He was arrested, cuffed, and taken to jail when armed DHS soldiers labeled police came to clear out part of the camp. They took his possessions, and did not return them to him upon his discharge from jail. This could have been an easy time to give up, wallow in his pain and losses and go back home, however he is committed to the cause: he cannot stand idly by knowing parent’s less fortunate than him have had their children ripped away, just for the crime of trying to find a better life. He was focused on the gifts he had to give, to make the world a better place and to share his love. It was an honor to meet such a loving and passionate soul.

A young man in his late twenties is marching the front lines. He stands face to face with DHS soldiers, provides emotional support to other volunteers, and remarks upon the horrors the children being held in Portland must be facing. He’s been going hard at the protests for a week straight. He’s also a victim of Portland’s housing crisis, works 2 jobs, and sleeps in his car. He barely has the means to take care of himself, yet he’s been spending all of his free time to give to the cause. He knows that the protest in itself is not enough, that the numbers need to grow, that facilitated action needs to be taken by the masses if we truly want justice. For evil wins when good people do nothing, and standing idly by in the face of injustice is always taking the side of the oppressor; cynicism and apathy are weapons of the oppressive forces; yet here he marches giving his all. I counseled him about wellness and energy, and making sure he was looking at the cause as a marathon on not a sprint. Mostly I was in awe of a man who has so little that can give so much. May we all have the gift of this man’s resilience and dedication to values in the face of adversity.

I had the privilege yesterday to be surrounded by a community of love. Love, is not just an abstract feeling, it is a verb. The Love acts with compassion, is giving, and sacrifices for the greater good. Love sets tough boundaries, holds space, acts when it would be convenient to step aside, and shines the light towards the path when others cannot see the way.

We all want companionship, compassion, to be part of a community, to be loved for who we are, to grow and thrive, and to feel part of something greater than ourselves. Children in cages and families fleeing from one terror to another don’t have those opportunities. Now is the time to act with love.

Vote, organize with your families, friends and community members, donate to a just cause, help those who cannot help themselves, volunteer. Write a song or some poetry, share your story, help those who have fallen, and redirect those who have lost their way. Feed the hungry, tend to the sick, and take care of yourself.

And if you haven’t heard it today, know that I love you. Thank you for reading.

Jon