I watch two parents, the dad still in painter’s overalls, whispering to each other in Spanish as they sit in folding chairs in a hot school gym. Their 10-year-old daughter, dressed in her Sunday best, is about to receive an award. Her name is called, and as she walks to the front, she searches the crowd. She smiles when her eyes find theirs, and I see tears on her parents’ cheeks. I think to myself, “there is truth here.”
I see a Young Women’s leader politely escort a new member of the bishopric out into the hall at a stake dance. “But her skirt is too short,” I overhear him say. I listen as this leader explains that this girl will not, under any circumstances, be asked to leave, because this is the first time in months she looks happy. “I believe in this leader,” I think to myself. “There is more truth in a smile than a hemline.”
I go into my kids’ bedrooms late at night, when it’s quiet. As I carefully brush their hair from their foreheads, I think about how their lives will extend beyond mine. “I don’t know much,” I think to myself, “but I know there is truth in their steady breathing, and in their dirty laundry scattered on the floor.”
I see a son tell his father he’s gay, and I see the father, still processing the meaning of the words, reach out, instinctively, and draw his son into a hug, to make sure there is less distance between them now than before. “If there is truth,” I think to myself, “then it is here.”
I think of another father and son, both seeking political asylum. They spend months sleeping side-by-side on cots in a detention center. The father does his best to make people sitting behind desks and computer sceens understand. A bureaucrat, with a wife, two kids, and problems of his own, who is just doing his job, makes the decision to send them back to their country. The father, because he knows what that means, slips quietly out of bed in the middle of the night and hangs himself in the stairwell. He leaves a note, carefully tucked under his son’s pillow. “They can’t deport you without me, you’re too young,” the note says. “Now they have to let you stay.” The father’s last words: “Work hard. Be strong. I love you.”
There is truth here, even though I don’t want to see it.
I think of the two great commandments. I am lost in the expanse between them. They lie on opposite sides of a gulf that separates elusive glimpses of light and shadow from the truth that’s right in front of us.
–Brent D. Beal