Monday, March 22, 2010

Parents in Solidarity with Salvador -- and their Children

We overlapped with Parents' Weekend at Santa Clara University's Casa de la Solidaridad. That means we simultaneously overlapped with different families -- and different solidarities.

What kind of parents send their kids to a semester abroad program in El Salvador, when they could be pub-crawling in London? Or tapas-hopping in Madrid? We heard a variety of responses.

A couple from the Bay Area said their daughter had spent the fall in Florence before signing on to this spring semester in El Salvador. "We could only afford to visit one of the sites," her mother said. "This is the one we chose." We heard later that the father was of Armenian descent. Stories from families who experienced the civil war here evoked stories of the Armenian genocide. Immediately, he had something in common with the people his daughter had been working with.

We talked to another couple from Maryland as they were packing to go home. "I wish schools were doing this when I was in college," the mother said wistfully. She seemed reluctant to go home. They'd attended classes with their daughter, visited her praxis site, and spent the week interacting with other parents. "This is our youngest of four," the father said. "The rest of the kids have jobs that serve others -- and don't pay. Two of them came home to live with us." He was proud of the fact.

Another mother addressed our question directly: "My daughter knew we weren't always like her friends' parents. We made certain choices. She knew they weren't the same choices that her friends' parents made. I guess she noticed. It was a very powerful lesson for her."

I walked much of the Romero procession with another couple. I realized that all three of us were "herding" the rest of the group like border collies. We kept a lookout for where everyone was. Later I found out they were evangelicals who'd sent their daughter to a Jesuit university. I must have looked puzzled, because the mother immediately explained: "Go figure -- we liked their values."

What are those values? For sure, one of them is simple solidarity. Parents show solidarity with their chidlren, when they find time and money to spend a week with them attending their classes, sharing in their reflection groups, and visiting their praxis sites. Not surprisingly, their children show solidarity with the people accompanying them in their daily lives and work.

I had a feeling that showing up for their children in El Salvador wasn't an isolated event, but just another expression of being there -- at soccer games, recitals, and basketball games. Solidarity becomes a habit, that then gets hard-wired into the next generation. It's wonderful to behold.

We've deeply appreciated being here during Parents' Weekend. Meeting these families has been both a witness and a grace.

And what kind of student chooses this semester abroad program? We'll find out. We're camping out at Pop's, the ice cream joint outside the university, for the next several afternoons to meet with students.

More to come!

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