A Real Life Foot Washing Experience for Maundy Thursday with Tucson Samaritans
Jeff and I were headed back to Tucson from Ajo — across Highway 86 through the Tohono Odom Nation. It was a bit past lunch time. We decided not to stop as we had coffee and cake at the coffee shop in Ajo. We were on a Tucson Samaritan trip – providing water, food and medical care to migrants in the desert.We have already had an encounter with 6 migrants and 2 Border Patrol this morning on the way to Ajo. Although the 6 were already apprehended by BP, the migrants appeared to be in good health. One of the agents allowed us to provide fresh cold water and food to the 4 young women and 2 young men (probably ages 18 – 24).
Just before we arrived at Sells, I spotted a man standing along side of the road – probably a migrant (but you never know for sure). Jeff did a u-turn and we pulled up beside him. I asked (in Spanish), do you need help? “yes, my feet”, he responded. I told him I could help him, but La Migra (BP) were up and down the road and would most likely stop. He said, “esta bien. I need help! Jeff and I got out of the truck and gave him a bottle of water and said drink it slowly. He looked worn out but not really in distress from heat or lack of water (yet). I asked him to sit down while I looked at his feet. Jeff talked with him as I untied and took his boots off. I removed his worn socks that were soaked with blood and infectious oozing. Jeff gave me some cotton balls and another bottle of water to wash his feet with. I did this as gently as I could because I could see on his face that it was painful.
While I worked Jeff talked with him –his name( Roberto), from (Oaxaca), traveling with a group (including his wife that he was separated from while running from BP – he now had no idea where his wife was – maybe alone, maybe apprehended by BP) The bottoms of Roberto’s feet were raw — no skin, just bloody “meat” (for lack of better way to put it). I had never experienced anything quite like this. Jeff continued to talk with him while I cleaned first one foot and then the other. I put antibiotic cream on the wounds and between his toes. Looking into the medical supplies that we had, I took mole skin to apply to the worst of his wounds on the bottom of his feet and then wrapped lightly with gauze and taped it so it would stay on. I didn’t know what I could do for his toes except cover with the antibiotic and hope he would get some actual medical care somewhere along the line from Border Patrol or when he arrived at the Detention Center later in the day.
I was still working on his feet when 2 BP agents pulled up. One of them walked over to us and said, “I see you got one for us”. I felt a rush of anger go to my head along with the thought, “Got one what? He is a human!” Fortunately, I also remembered what we were told at the training, “Our mission is to provide water, food and medical aid to migrants crossing in the desert. We are not out here to change Border Patrol policy or to debate the Constitution. There is another time and place for that. “ (Those who know me will realize how hard it was for me NOT to snap back at the Border Patrol.) As it turned out the agent was reasonably compassionate. He allowed Roberto to drink the Gatorade we had given him while I put clean socks on his feet, put his boots back on and laced them up.
The agent then said to Roberto, “get up” and led him over to the truck. As he walked away, Roberto said , Gracias, Gracias, Gracias” over and over to Jeff and me. “You are good people”. “Vaya con Dios”, I said. “I hope you find your wife soon”.
Jeff and I watched as they took his back pack, belt and shoe laces from him. They put him in the back of the truck (looks like a paddy wagon on tv). We waited a few minutes in silence and Jeff said, “guess we are done here. Better head on home”.It was quiet in the truck as we headed east on 86 back to Tucson – each of us in our own thoughts. Then Jeff (a 30ish year old unemployed social worker) said, “I am not a religious person, but I know you are. Isn’t there something in the Bible about washing feet”? “Yes”, I said. “We will be remembering that story as part of our Maundy Thursday Services this coming Thursday.” “Well, I think you just lived that story here in the desert today. Amazing!” said Jeff.
We drove the rest of the way in mostly silence.
More than two thousand years ago
A miracle happened and faces began to glow.
God sent Jesus to teach us about his amazing love
For each one of us is valued far above
What we experience on earth
Where there is a dearth
Of love and respect
Despite the many who object.
to the way we treat all forms of life
There seems no end to struggle and strife
Today many will hear the good news
As they did long ago and will choose
To assume that if God lives
And through Jesus’ sacrifice forgives
Then a celebration is in order
We’ll take down the border
That closed our heart
And choose to start
A new way of living
Gladly give up the sinning.
Become a bearer of the good news –
A believer who will choose
To share the story
Of God’s love and glory.
But alas, the opportunities for distraction
Will keep many from taking action.
It’s easier to doubt
What God is all about
because talking the talk
is easier than walking the walk.
Or does it just seem that way?
Because Jesus is here to stay…
Pretending he’s not,
Refraining from believing the good news he brought
Will not fill your well
And may lead you to tell
Yourself an untruth
As you wait for proof.
Faith is believing without seeing
It’s more than a feeling!
We’ll take up our own cross
And set aside the dross
Of things that seem important
And of distractions that can be shortened
In order to lead others
Strangers and friends, sisters and brothers
To live in God’s light
And lift the dark night
And know that God will lead you home.