Mother of Exiles: Our Lady Speaks

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 tos’t
to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Oh, how quickly we have forgotten the principles our Lady of Liberty symbolizes. Oh, how quickly we have forgotten our own history. How quickly we have forgotten our own persecution, our own fight for freedom of religion, of belief, of politic. Oh, how quickly we have begun to deny to another that for which our ancestors begged and fought and bled. Oh, how quickly.

No, this doesn’t mean we need carelessly to remove all boundaries, all borders, all rules, regulations and processes. Nor does it mean we accept any treatment, become a politically codependent doormat for the world. It does mean we act with responsibility and accountability at all times.

But I am reminded that a closed system – be that a mind, a relationship, a country, a company, or a millpond – begins to stagnate and will eventually poison itself. And just like when we open our personal boundaries, we have to pay attention to whom we let in. We have to be able to set and honor our own boundaries, and observe and respect others’. No pushing or bullying attempts for dominance can be accepted in a healthy situation.

Still, it remains vital to our own survival, to staying alive, to keep ourselves open, in whatever form that appropriately takes. Otherwise we run the risk of living ever smaller, smaller, smaller lives, within ourselves or within the world, allowing our fears and past traumas to shut us down as we shut them out.

Step by step we stretch, we allow, we grow, we welcome. We recognize what we need to, step away when we need to, set boundaries when we need to. All in good and healthy ways, as it should be. We draw our circles wide and wider still. We leave room at the end of our stories – blank pages – into which we can grow, our relationships can grow, our world can grow, our minds can grow. We recognize the cost of contraction, the turning into ourselves, like arthritic hands advanced beyond repair, that turn from loving, loose, and flowing instruments of love, into tortured, crumpled, helpless, pain-filled masses.

So we expand. We apply whatever we have learned to facilitate this expansion. We grow. We open, like winter-pierced seeds, summer flowers turning to the sun, petals stretching wide. We open. And yes, like flowers, when need be, when darkness falls, we may close for a moment, pulling inside ourselves for rest, reflection, whatever is needed in each situation – but then again, as the morning sun draws itself above the horizon, we expand, we open, we live. And we WELCOME.

Not so long ago, our ancestors were refugees. Our ancestors were exiles. May we honor their memory and the lessons they learned, and not let ourselves be misguided by unconscious, unowned guilt for the harmful and domineering mistakes they made to those already living here when they reached these shores.

And for those of us who have lived and worked abroad, learning personally what it means to be the outsider, the foreigner, to have others judge and react to us simply because they THINK they know who we are – may we honor and remember that learning as well.

May we remember our Lady’s words – all she stands for. May we remember why exactly that torch is lit. And may we honor and extend her promise once again.

Namaste. And so it is.


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!
– Emma Lazarus
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