The view from the second floor conference room of the South Padre Island Birding Center is spectacular. The horizon fills the west-facing windows; the distant shoreline runs from north to south and serves to anchor your soul, lest it fly right away.
Last week, twenty leaders from a host of the community-based organizations that form the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network had gathered to spend a day sharing the stories of our collective pursuits of justice for all.
One veteran of these struggles spoke about the time he went with a client to pick up papers from the local police department. She was a victim of domestic violence, and was trying to take advantage of the Violence Against Women Act, a law that Congress passed in 1994 and which offers the possibility of licit immigration status to those undocumented women (and men) who suffer abuse at the hands of their “legal” spouses.
As the woman pulled into the parking lot of the police department, she went through a complicated maneuver trying to park the car. “What’s wrong?” the human rights’ activist asked her. She smiled as she gently fronted the car into a space at the edge of the parking lot, “I lost the reverse to the car. It will only go forward. So I have to find a space that allows me to go forward when I am ready to leave.”
After finishing business with the police, they headed to the courthouse. Here, however, the parking situation was too complicated. She finally pulled into a space, put the car into park, and shut off the engine. Noting this, the man commented, “I thought that you said that the car had no reverse?”
“It doesn’t,” she said, “so when we get done, I will be the reverse—I just put the car in neutral and push it on out. Works like a charm!”
As she walked up the sidewalk toward the courthouse, he remained in the car, admiring this woman who had once been trapped in that very narrow coffin of physical and emotional abuse by a spouse and who was now unbothered by something as minor as the lack of a reverse gear in her car.
Our companion finished his tale, took a sip of coffee, and said, “Amazing,” and then sat quietly.
I glanced out the window and watched as a lone seabird rose up and up and up into the light of the late afternoon, another one of God’s creatures profoundly, happily, unbothered by the lack of reverse.