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Overcoming "Illegal" 

Thiel Larson believes it's time to stop and acknowledge our common humanity.

A rally was held Monday, May 11, asking public officials to protect the civil rights of undocumented people in Central Oregon. I was there because I have, for 12 years, run a low-income program for children. I started this group when, as a teacher, I became increasingly aware of children living in debilitating poverty.

The neighborhood I work in has changed over the years to one that is now mainly Hispanic.  With that change has come growth and awareness on my part of the plight of immigrants who desperately want a better life for their children and are willing to risk and work hard to obtain it.  They remind me each day that this is our heritage.  This country is, has been, the “promised land” for all of us at one time in our history.  Our common humanity, the reality that we are all children of God, with different stories is what motivates me to walk alongside these families in their struggle to survive.

Our lives are often reduced to “sound bites” as we rush to meet deadlines.  But where are we headed?  What will be lost if we pause to listen to each other, and to look into the heart of our brothers and sisters?  If we distance ourselves from people we judge undesirable, we risk losing sight of who we are.  Are we losing our soul as we divide people into tidy groups of those with rights and those without rights:  Those who are “legal” and those who are “illegal?”  Talking with a friend once, and mentioning that we are all immigrants, he protested;  “Oh no, we stole this country fair and square.”

We are faced with tremendous challenges:  The destruction of our environment, the consequences of attempting to police the world, and the movement away from common decency.  I believe it's time to stop and acknowledge our common humanity.

– Thiel Larson, Bend

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