Sunday, May 28, 2023

Charity Sunday: In Search of Safety – #CharitySunday #Immigration #LegalAssistance #Compassion

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Conflict, poverty, famine, disasters, repression – there are many reasons why people migrate from their homes to another country. The media in wealthy Western countries love to showcase the tattered, dirty, desperate multitudes massed on the borders, ready to risk almost anything for the chance at a new life. A streak of paranoia runs through the official narratives about immigration. They’re all criminals. They’ll steal our jobs. They’ll infect us with disease.

Even if you reject these stereotypes, migrants and refugees pose significant practical problems, since they must be fed, housed and eased into society. Sometimes it seems as though it would be easier just to keep them out.

Immigration is a complex issue, not something that can be resolved with slogans. I’d like to see people take a reasoned, constructive approach that balances everyone’s rights and needs. Meanwhile, I try to remember that every one of those people at the border has a personal story. They’re not just a faceless mob.

As it happens, a shocking number of migrants are children or teens traveling on their own. Minors are even more vulnerable than adult migrants. They’re not intellectually equipped to deal with the intricate requirements of immigration law. They’re often physically fragile. They can be subject to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

The organization I’m supporting this Charity Sunday is quite specialized, focusing on the plight of these child migrants. KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) offers practical assistance to unaccompanied children seeking entrance to the U.S. This includes kids whose families are already settled in the States, who must navigate the immigration bureaucracy in an attempt to join them


KIND provides free legal counsel and representation during immigration hearings, detailed and up-to-date information on the latest laws related to immigration and asylum claims, and social services to meet pressing physical and emotional needs. KIND also works on the policy level to help craft laws that are both effective and compassionate, and cooperates with international partners in Central America, Europe and the UK.

Anyway, as I normally do on Charity Sunday, I will donate two dollars to KIND for each comment I receive on this post. My own grandparents were immigrants. What about yours?

As for my excerpt – I think I’ve already shared snippets from my refugee story. So, stretching the question of relevance (quite a bit!), I’ve got an excerpt from my erotic suspense novel Exposure, whose heroine, Stella Xanathakeos, is a first generation American, daughter of a Greek immigrant. Stella is an exotic dancer in Pittsburgh, who through no fault of her own witnesses a double murder. Now she’s a target herself. Unless she can unravel the web of lies that surround her, she may well be the next victim.

In this snippet, Stella disguises herself to attend the funeral of Tony Pinelli, the murdered mayoral candidate, in order to look for clues.


I start by pulling my hair into a tight bun, no easy task given how thick and wavy it is. I need half a package of bobby pins to keep the stray curls in place. Then, closing my eyes, I dust my head with talcum powder until my jet locks are a convincingly dull gray.

I put on a pair of black opaque stockings and a heavily wired black bra. I have to use a safety pin on the waistband of the skirt I bought at Salvation Army so that it doesn’t fall off. Next, I pull two bulky sweaters over my head, the outer one a rusty black. My arms feel like sausages, wrapped in the layers of padding, but when I slip on the suit jacket and button it up, the effect is just as I had imagined. I look like one of those stocky old women with barrel chests and no waist that are so common in the back pews of churches. The klutzy shoes, the cross, and a pair of my dad’s old reading glasses perched on my nose complete the picture.

I limp over to the mirror, noticing that my injury makes the disguise even more convincing. No sign of Stella the stripper, just a frumpy and pious old lady shuffling off to Mass. I need something to cover my head, I realize. I dig out a black chiffon scarf that I sometimes use as a veil in my act, and drape it over the gray-streaked bun. Perfect!

Fortunately the weather has turned cool again. As I lock the door behind me, I sniff the air. There’s a promise of rain. I go back and retrieve my father’s big black umbrella, which can double as a cane. Then it’s back to the corner to wait for the bus. An old lady on a pension wouldn’t be likely to take a taxi.

I had expected that Tony would be buried near Shadyside, his home territory. Instead, his funeral is taking place at Saint Benedict’s, in the old Italian district of Bloomfield. It’s lucky for me, actually. Saint Benedict’s cathedral apparently has its own cemetery adjoining the church. That way, I can easily attend both the service and the burial. I definitely want to see who stands at the edge of Tony’s grave.

Mass is already in progress when I slip into the sanctuary. St. Benedict’s is huge, a relic of the time when the faithful were more numerous than today. Still, it’s packed. Apparently, Tony had many people who loved him. There are probably quite a few who hated him, too, but who are here to keep up appearances. Even at the back, every pew is full.

Standing just inside the door is a familiar figure: Jimmy Ostermann. My heart quickens when I see him. I honestly don’t know whether this is from excitement or fear. Bending over my umbrella so that my face is in shadow, I shuffle right past him. He hardly seems to notice. His attention is focused on a row of men seated not far from the door, wearing identical black cashmere coats and, oddly, sunglasses.

My ankle throbbing, I make my labored way down the side aisle toward the nave. There are no seats here, either, but there’s a shrine to Our Lady of Sorrows in an alcove not far from the front. I kneel awkwardly in front of the life-sized plaster image of the Virgin and clasp my hands reverently below my chin. Hopefully, no one will notice me. However, if I turn my head slightly, I can see the priest, the coffin, and the occupants of the first few rows.

Francesca, of course, is right in front. Her extreme paleness, contrasted with her widow’s garb, make me think of an old black and white photo. As far as I can tell, she’s not crying. Her lips are pressed together, as if she is trying to keep herself from screaming.

There are others whom I don’t recognize, but who have enough resemblance to Francesca that I suspect they’re her family. There’s nobody who looks even remotely like Tony. I vaguely remember reading that he was abandoned at birth and brought up in a Catholic orphanage. Figures. He probably learned to rely on himself at a pretty early age.

My knees are starting to hurt. The stone church is cool and dank, but still, I’m sweating in my many layers of clothing. I begin to wonder if this whole thing was a good idea, when I have the sense that someone is looking at me. I bow my head, checking around as best I can with peripheral vision.

It takes me a few minutes to locate him. He’s in the shadows, to the left of the altar. It’s Bill the detective, Jimmy Ostermann’s office mate at the precinct, and he seems to be staring right at me. Of course, he’s far enough away that it’s hard to tell, but still I feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck. I make the sign of the cross, an old gesture from my childhood, trying to make my character more convincing. The familiar motions are oddly comforting, though I stopped believing long ago.

When I peek again in Bill’s direction, his eyes are elsewhere. My heart pounds against my ribs, under my padding. Come on, Stella. It makes sense that he’d be here. After all, Jimmy’s here. Jimmy told you the police planned to have a presence at the funeral. There are probably lots of other cops here. No reason to be alarmed. I try to reason with myself, but it’s several minutes before my breathing returns to normal.

The priest’s voice rises and falls, chanting the ancient ritual. The service reminds me of the Greek litany, when my mother used to take me to the onion-domed St. Nicholas’ Cathedral. I close my eyes, letting the music and rhythm of the Mass fill me. I remember the scent of incense and perfumed oil, the flickering of the candles, the bearded priest’s gentle hand on my hair when he blessed me. I couldn’t have been older than five.

Resolutely, I push the memories away. Memories will just make me vulnerable. I need to be clever and alert, to focus my attention on my enemies. Tony’s enemies. I gaze up at the pastel-hued statue of the Madonna, noticing the realistic tears on her pink cheeks.

* * * *

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll visit the other blogs participating in today’s Charity Sunday hop. And please, please, leave a comment – for the kids seeking safety.


Anna Taylor Sweringen said...

It's good to know about the good people are doing in the world. Thanks for sharing.

Sadira Stone said...

Excellent tension in this snippet! Thanks for supporting a good cause.

kaisquared said...

My greatgrandparents immigrated from Europe, while my husband's family came over on the Mayflower. Thanks for the excerpt!

Tina Donahue said...

Great post as always, Lisabet. What gets me about those who are completely against immigration is that they're the same people who would never toil in a field picking crops as an immigrant does. Too, look at the US's history. We've interfered repeatedly in governments overseas - supposedly to bring freedom to those poor souls - but in actuality it was to secure resources (oil or whatever that country has and we don't, but we want it cheap). So we mess up their governments, infrastructure, what-have-you and the people living there have to flee. Can you blame them for coming to the US, after all we caused the mess. Immigrants don't take our jobs. The 1% is giving our jobs away to people who are desperate and will work for a fraction of what those in the US will. Why aren't these protestors who are against immigration angry at FB, Twitter, and all those tech places who hire people on visas when we have more than enough talent in this country? It's sad that the victims (in this case the immigrants) are made to pay for the greedy decisions of the oligarchs who actually cause these problems.

Colleen C. said...

Happy Sunday

Cheyenne Blue said...

Such a worthwhile cause this Sunday, Lisabet, and a great excerpt, as always.

Dee S. Knight said...

Great excerpt, as always!

Anonymous said...

Great charity, and the excerpt is so intriguing that it feels like it should be a movie. (Sacchi)

Fiona McGier said...

This book was interesting to read, since having murders and political intrigue isn't something you usually write. But it was a good read. And yes, my mom's parents came here from Poland, when all you had to do at Ellis Island was sign your name, and you were welcomed into the country. My dad came here from Scotland, and since he was a carpenter, he was welcomed--then he sponsored his electrician brother and family to also become US citizens. Funny, isn't it, that we're supposedly hurting so badly for folks to work minimum wage jobs that many states are changing laws to allow kids as young as 14 to work dangerous jobs for long hours--but all of those seeking to make a new start here, aren't "allowed" to work. Think there's a connection?

Ornery Owl of Naughty Netherworld Press and Readers Roost said...

Reflecting on Tina's comment, I live in a very red rural area. Often when I drive to the city, I see migrant workers in the fields and wonder what they're being paid (not a lot, surely). If they're undocumented, they're being paid even less. Yet the anti-immigration lot would never lower themselves to doing this kind of back-breaking work. We have a long way to go to achieve real equality.
A thought-provoking post. Tweeted.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks to everyone who commented. I'm off to donate $20 to KIND -- very appropriately, since today is World Refugee Day (

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