Just 1 at a Time

Individual Stories

The number of families seeking refuge is overwhelming. Most of them arrive at the US-Mexico border towns with no possessions, little or no money and the heartbreak of leaving behind family, familiarity, friends, and pets.

At One Story at a Time, we continue to see individual families progressing from vulnerable, hopeless beginnings into new hope, new opportunities, new lives.

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Because families are often in danger, due to the circumstances that made them leave, we change the names in the stories we collect and only include a very small amount of information.

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The Flute

From Linda Carroll: I usually bring harmonicas or recorders when I visit shelters, since I have found that those inexpensive instruments make a delightful gift for children and keep them happy for hours on end. One day, I handed out some recorders, and the children were delighting in the sound they could hear themselves make. One very poised little girl, Maria, shyly asked if she could play. Another girl handed her a ten-dollar green recorder, and Maria began to play the most beautiful music. People gathered around, delighted and entranced, forgetting their own troubles as they listened to her play. Later someone told me her story.

Maria had lived in El Salvador with her parents, who were both teachers, and brother. She was a flutist and had played for several years. In the evenings and on weekends, they all worked in the family business, which was a bakery that had been in the family for three generations. Several years ago, a gang moved into their town and began to demand protection money from the family. They paid it, as they were not given a choice, and each year the percentage rose considerably more than the year before. Finally, the gang demanded 50 percent, and the family was not able to both maintain the bakery and pay the protection money. The gang members burned down the bakery. Because Maria’s family went to the police, the entire family was placed on a hit list. Maria and her brother were awoken in the night and allowed to pack one small suitcase. They ran for their lives, forced to leave their families, pets, home, and community. There had been no room for Maria’s beloved flute.

I don’t know the wisest way to help families such as Maria’s find a new life. Do they come here? Do they go to Canada? Do they settle in Mexico? That is not in my domain of expertise. But as a human being, I do know that giving Maria a recorder may have helped her begin to find the resilience to manage the unimaginable loss, chaos, and grief she has experienced over the last year.

Soon after my own experience with Maria, I sent her a new flute.

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