At yesterday’s back to school celebration the ministry was alive with sound and color.
Music was everywhere; Cumbia played in the background, giving rhythm to the symphony of shrieks and giggles, splashes, shouts, and raucous laughter that filled the shaded area at the ministry and spilled out into the surrounding sun-drenched fields. The staccato crack of wooden boards accompanied an impressive showing by our guest performers from Jarona Tae Kwon Do Academy.
Multicolored balloons perched on every possible surface, hanging alongside streamers in the outdoor shaded area, bouncing down the halls where volunteers distributed school supplies, and slinging from hose to hand and then through the air to land with a splash, eliciting a yelp or a spurt of laughter if they happened to hit their target. Colors danced in paints across the faces of the kids who stopped by my face-painting station. Purple butterflies, superheroes with a dash of glitter, and unicorns with rainbows for wings all mingled at our celebration alongside boldly colored Mexican and U.S. flags painted on sweaty hands and cheeks.
Something else emerged amidst the bustle of sweat, sugar, and smiles, something every bit as powerful as it was simple: a quietly radiant shared joy.
Yesterday’s event was a back to school celebration. While calling to confirm with families a few days in advance, the significance of the ‘back to school’ part became quite evident to me. From the tone with which mothers and fathers spoke to me, I quickly gathered just how needed the school supplies were that the ministry had to offer. As parent after parent, many of them farmworkers, registered their children for the event, the scaffold outline of an unjust system became a bit clearer in my mind — one in which the very people who harvest the sustenance our country depends on to survive are so hard-pressed for resources that basic school supplies can be a struggle to afford. Our event was planned in response to that unfair material reality. But why the celebration part? Was there a deeper significance behind the balloons and streamers, the piñatas and music and games?
As I reflect on yesterday’s event with smiling, sweaty butterflies and superheroes dancing behind my eyes, I am beginning to realize that families coming together in celebration transformed an act of direct service into a powerful moment of community resilience. More than any backpack or pencil sharpener, the delight, playfulness, and shared joy that filled the ministry yesterday are a testament to this community’s strength and unity. As racism gains a greater license on a national scale and unjust policies create increasing challenges for immigrant families, it was truly a beautiful thing to witness the community gathering together to celebrate, to welcome in a new year of school with a resounding joyful noise.
*Special thanks to all the churches and individuals who donated or volunteered to make this a successful event!