Training is here…I arrived in New York today at 11 am. Reality is starting to sink in; I leave the country in about a month. What this month has in store for me, I’m not sure. What the year and a half to follow has in store for me, I’m even less sure. What I know for sure, though, is that I will certainly have a long month of difficult goodbyes (or, preferably, see-you-soons), and I can be almost certain that my life is about to change in some drastic ways, though I am unsure what those ways may be at this point.
As I flew into New York LaGuardia Airport this morning, I found myself gazing out the window, anxiously watching for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, also noticing that many of the other passengers glanced right past them to gaze at the skyscrapers and scenery of Manhattan. However, I think that both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island serve as good and sobering reminders of why I am here in New York in the first place.
At my interview weekend for the Mission Intern program, one of the GBGM staff people had said to us that we would be, should we enter the program, underpaid migrant workers. While, yes, we still have all the privileges our social posts hold and while we still have the promise that, if the lifestyle of the program is not what we were expecting or if it is not something we can or wish to continue, we must only last a few short years and then we needn’t live again as an underpaid migrant worker (even though many in such a situation are not able to make such a choice), we will still be leaving our homes, our families, our friends, everything we know, to go live simply and in solidarity and work in a context unfamiliar to us.
So there I was, on the plane into LaGuardia, gazing out the window, watching for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, remembering all those who, only a century or less ago, saw those landmarks as they entered New York Harbor and understood that the sight of them meant a different life, a change, a new beginning. So, too, will my trip here for training mean a different life, a change, a new beginning.
Lastly, I remembered Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, engraved in a bronze plaque mounted inside of the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus”:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I find the last eight lines especially telling. The Statue of Liberty is a marker of global invitation, offering a safe space and a home to the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses”, the homeless. Upon reflection this reminded me of the fact that my time here in New York for training is not only a time to move me into a different life, a change, or a new beginning, but it is also an invitation. It is an invitation to me to enter into a space of solidarity with the suffering and the oppressed, as well as an invitation to me to open a space, in my heart, in my mind, and in my life, for all the people and situations I will encounter. It is also a reminder that I must extend the invitation to others to accompany me on the journey, so I will never be truly alone. So I invite you, journey with me, and together, we can begin the revolUMCion!