The View from Bolton Street

“So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.


 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers agreed.”


Genesis 37:23-27


There are not a lot of biblical stories about a government ripping children from the arms of their mothers and locking them up (perhaps even the biblical scribes couldn’t imagine such cruelty), but the story of Joseph comes close.


Brothers conspiring to first kill, and then “humanely” imprison and sell their own brother because they were jealous of the freedoms he enjoyed, they felt, at their expense.


Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers, but because of God’s good grace, the kindness of the Ishmaelites and then Potiphar, and then the jailer and finally Pharaoh, Joseph survives. And thrives.


While he remains angry with his brothers, he also has compassion for them, and for his father and his youngest brother —  and so seeks to care for them when they come to him in need.


Through such a lens, it is helpful to ask our selves, “Who are we?” Most of us, lucky for us, are not Joseph. We are not trapped in a well. We have not been abandoned by our government in a cage or a tent city on the border.


And, I hope, most of us are not the brothers, callously casting our fellow man into the pit out of jealousy, bitterness, or resentment.


Perhaps it is up to us, then, to be the kind-hearted people on the way — the traveling caravan, the temporary host, the supportive jailer, the empowering leader — doing what we can to support, uplift and show God’s love and care for children and families in need so that one day they may turn and say, in spite of everything, “Look at those Episcopalians, how they showed love for us.”


Imagine how the Joseph story might have ended otherwise. Not only the end of Abrahamic lineage, but the end of our story, and our relationship with the Divine. Now imagine how the story of these children at the border might otherwise end.


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Pueblo Sin Fronteras 


The Florence Project - to support legal services and humanitarian services at the border


CASA of Maryland - to support legal services for families facing detention and separation here in Maryland