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Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Angie Valeria

I Will Not Look Away

By Cassy Benefield

My friend shared the picture of you, Angie Valeria, and your father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, in death’s embrace on the banks of the Rio Grande on Facebook. With it, he asked me, and others who read his post, to look at it again and again and again to break through our complacency.

With those words, my heart was slayed, and I looked again.

I saw your picture a couple of times before that. My heart was tepid at best. I didn’t want to enter into yet another controversy between our government and the citizens of the world.

I am sorry to admit it, but I’m tired. I am worn out by the partisanship, the baiting, the hating, the lying, and the misinformation. I didn’t want to dive into this news because I knew I would need to read deeply to get to the truth.

Then, I thought, no, I don’t need to do that before I come to the right conclusion. Of course there are nuances to be understood and compromises needed to be made in this border crisis.

However, while I study those issues, there are some things I can believe in and take action on now because the issue is really simple. We are talking about how to treat another human being, and in your particular case, how to treat a child.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Mine eye affecteth my heart” (Lamentations 3:51, KJV). That’s the way I have memorized that passage, but in today’s English, the one you were learning in your father’s dreams, it says, “My eyes bring suffering to my soul” (NKJV).

Seeing your picture, with your precious body in the folds of your father’s shirt, with your arm draped around his neck as if to tell us this is where you held him in your last moments, has deeply affected my heart. It has made me want to do better for those who are at our borders now, as well as those who will be coming.

Our country is very large. Surely we have enough land to share with others who are desperate enough to make a dangerous crossing, like the one you and your father didn’t survive.

We are a nation that is extraordinarily prosperous. Surely many of us, including corporations, can dig into our pocketbooks to lend a helping hand, especially in ways our government has been too slow in resolving.

We are a nation of problem solvers and achievers. Surely we can work harder with more compassion to help families like your own achieve their dreams whether it be in our country or their own.

I receive emails from World Relief, a Christian organization deeply committed to helping refugees, people like your family, who are desperate for a better life than they could achieve in their native countries due to violence, poverty, and a whole host of issues that we—who are born in America, with its opportunities on every corner—can’t even begin to imagine.

In an email in response to your picture and other headlines about the treatment of children at our border, World Relief urged Americans to take a good, hard look at what’s going on. They included this prayer, “Dear God, give us the courage to not look away.”

How did they know this was the prayer I needed to open my eyes and really begin to take action?

Granted, my action is paltry in light of others’ works, but this isn’t about me. It’s about you and others like you and asking myself, is there something I can do?

Dear one, yes, there is. I’m just sorry it took me so long to see you and respond.

Know this, your story has given me courage, and in your memory, the first thing I promise to do is not look away.

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