A path: A way beaten, formed, or trodden by the feet of persons or animals. Paths consume our lives. We walk down paths to jobs, houses, families. And each person’s path is different. Some of us walk slowly, while others run. Sometimes we encounter road blocks along the way, maybe the size of a mesquite tree or a prickly pear cactus. Sometimes we get a thorn stuck in our leg and we have trouble walking and sometimes we feel weary and like we can’t walk anymore. Paths cross and twist and turn and hopefully, through perseverance, hope, and a goal, we reach our final destination.
Most of us are afforded help along our journey. Help can come in the form of a friend cheering us on or giving us advice. It can come in the form of a hug from a beloved parent, friend, or animal. It can come in the form of a story, a hardy meal, a drink, a conversation. Help comes in a variety of forms. It shapes our paths and our stories. My story changed this past week. In my life I have experienced great joy, happiness, and love. I have also experienced heartache and loss. Some would say I am lucky because I have not experienced the loss of a family member or close friend. On March 18 I experienced the loss of my beloved dog. I cried myself to sleep each night for 54 days wishing I could get my best friend back. This loss changed my life. My path shifted. I felt lost.
I have walked down countless paths in my life, both consciously and unconsciously. Each path has been my own though until this past week when I walked down somebody else’s path or rather, many persons path. While in South Texas, we had the incredible opportunity to conduct foot searches for missing migrants on a 64,000 acre ranch. We walked through what seemed like hundreds of spider webs, changed our paths to preserve spider webs, ran into low hanging branches and lost our hats and sunglasses, drank bottles and bottles of water, searched the ground for rattlesnakes, bones and any signs of human presence. We struggled to walk through miles of sand and attempted to guard ourselves against the Texas sun, ticks, and the thorns of cacti and mesquite trees. We walked along paths trodden down by individuals attempting to seek shelter and make a better life for themselves. We saw personal belongs left behind by these individuals.
In our time in South Texas, we also had the unique opportunity to help build water stations to hopefully help save the lives of migrants walking through the area. We built 13 water stations and serviced 66 additional stations. We dropped 160 gallons of water in total.
For me, this trip was life changing. I saw with my own eyes, the remnants of individuals traversing through the Texas ranchlands. I experienced the extreme heat of the Texas sun coupled with 90% humidity and above. I walked 23 miles in sand, through thick brush without knowing what was ahead of me and putting all of my trust in Deputy Don White. I heard countless stories that would break anybody’s heart. I was able to experience a tiny portion of a migrants journey, and it changed my life.
I returned home to my 423 square-foot apartment in Indianapolis with a heavy heart. I am so happy to have been a part of this Beyond Borders trip to South Texas and I am so proud of the work we were able to do while we were there. However, I am deeply saddened to think about the individuals walking through South Texas right now as I write this as well as those families who have not found peace yet because their loved one(s) is missing. I wish them peace, safety, hope, and happiness. I wish they could know that without meeting even one of them, they have changed my life for good.