The other day my son was telling his best friend, our 81 year old neighbor Cleo, about another boy at his school. This particular classmate has autism and from the perspective of my 3 year old son characteristics like limited communication or not sharing interests seem like misbehaving. So he was lamenting some of these frustrations about his classmate to Cleo.

“He’s a bad boy, Cleo.”
“He’s not bad. He’s a good kid having a hard time.”

I love this perspective and it has helped not only my son but our whole family’s approach in framing and understanding other people’s situations. I hope to have such wisdom when I’m in my eighties.

We have another friend who has had some trouble with the law recently and to make matters worse he’s an undocumented immigrant. And when I say “undocumented” what I mean is when he was a child his country was having a civil war and he was transported out in the desert and left to die. He managed to survive and come to America in a shipping container. He’s a grown man now. He works a job. Has kids. Loves America. The country of his birth has refused to take him back.

I do not claim to know his guilt or innocence, but I do know that in order to appease police (whom he fears for deportation reasons) he agrees to questions without a lawyer present and inadvertently incriminates himself. Creating more trouble. His troubles come from not having an education and enough money as a result of being a refugee. The poor and uneducated are vulnerable in our legal system.

“He’s not bad. He’s a good kid having a hard time.”

This week Texas signed into law SB4, a “Show Your Papers” law that outlaws sanctuary cities and discriminates against 51.5% of the Texas population. Families will be broken apart. This is a step backwards in helping good people get a better foothold in life. These people are not criminals. They are, in the (unexpected) words of George H.W. Bush, a “whole society of really honorable, decent family-loving people that are in violation of the law”.

They’re not bad. They’re good people having a hard time.