The Mexicans were out this morning. Planting hemp in the fields I pass on the way to my favorite diner. Yesterday I saw them cutting and baling hay.
They come here every year about this time, always working on the same farms, starting early in the morning, working through the heat of the days (Yesterday it was in the 90’s. It is supposed be hotter today.)
I am the sort who loves to watch people work. No, not to be lazy, but just to see how they do what they do. I find the details of how people do their work fascinating. More than once I have stopped on the roadside and watched the Mexicans work more than once. They are methodical, steady and work hard. As far as I can tell, they work six and seven days a week.
Let me begin by telling you what I don’t know. I don’t know if they are legal or illegal. I don’t know if they are paid a decent wage or not. (I hope so.). I do know that a lot of the stuff you see in the meme-wars about how they get tons of benefits paid for by our taxes are often false at least with this crew. Mostly, these folks I run into live on what they make, without health care, without welfare. I don’t know enough about federal regulations and why they are or are not enforced to have a valid opinion. I don’t know the particular farmers who use them each hear. I don’t know hardly anything about them except they work hard.
And they are nice. When they are here in the work seasons, they come to my favorite diner on Saturday mornings, they and their families. They are nice, warm, friendly people. I have enjoyed getting to know them on the periphery of their lives, one Saturday morning at a time, a few mornings each season, for several seasons now. They are nice. The kids are well behaved. There is an obvious fondness inside the families. If you are fan of the traditional family, these folks are a great example.
I am glad that here at least, in my strange little corner of the world that people seem to be nice to them. I have yet to hear grumbling or nasty comments. It likely happens, but I haven’t heard it yet. Sometimes (not always) people are careful what they say with the preacher around. Mostly, the locals are glad to have them there to do the extra work that no one here, locally wants to do.
That’s a big problem. Not just here in Vermont, but all over. Lots of work and no one who wants to do it. Places here are starting to close because they can’t get workers. Or they are limiting their hours. My favorite diner is considering closing a day or two a week because they can’t find waitresses and cooks to fill the hours of their regular schedule.
I can’t claim to be friends of the Mexicans. We’ve developed a nodding relationship, that’s all. This morning as I drove by in my ancient Isuzu Trooper, they looked up and waved. I waved back. I guess they have seen my truck enough years that it’s familiar to them. I talk to them in the diner.
I have a hard time understanding the hatred towards Mexicans and their ilk. I’ve never lost my job to someone illegal. But if I did, I think I would be angry at a system of government that was unable to provide enough good work, and a system of integration reform that half the time is brutal and half the time seems to work on a “wink and a nod” basis. Make laws. Enforce them consistently. Blame the people hiring, if you want.
But these people want what we all want. Work. A chance to make a living. If I lived in the situation some of them came from, I’d do my damndest to find a place where I COULD work.
In some ways, I am a sophisticated person, or so I am told. I keep up with the world. The interplay of culture and government and power and corruption, arts, literature, technology, social media, sports and all the elements that make up our world fascinates me.
But there is a part of me that is crazy simple. Childlike even. I simply don’t understand why people hate people who are simply doing the work. Why it becomes personal and harsh and feel they have the right to condemn and curse and abuse others who simply are doing what we all are doing, trying to make it. How we hate without knowing or learning anything about the who and what these people actually are.
Because everyone has a story. And often they are remarkably similar.
I tend to make everything simple. And simple kindness is at the heart of my faith. Five years of seminary that that’s what I came out with – Love God and Love God’s people. Simple. Not easy evidently, but certainly simple. I don’t think anything about being kind is extraordinary.
One night when I was a teenager, I was down at a South Carolina beach. I was drunk and I got hauled into jail by an oh-so-stereotypical cop. And I was an oh-so-stereotypical long-hair. A recipe for catching hell. but he was as kind as he could be. He listened to my story, put me in a cell where I’d be safe, and fed me breakfast before sending me out for the day. His last words as I left were “Be careful out there.”
Did I deserve that kind of treatment? No, I was an unruly teenager, underage and drunk. But I got it anyway. My guess? He was as simple as I am.
There’s no great message to this writing. I just felt moved to acknowledge these people who, even if they are here for a few weeks every year, are now part of my community. And to say, “be kind”. It’s not as hard as you think. And it still allows you to think and have any opinion you want.
Back to life,