At our annual Seattle Benefit on May 20, current JV Hannah Legatzke (Seattle ’17-18) reflected on her experience at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Below is an excerpt from her moving speech about “Extending the Table,” the theme of our 2017- 2018 JV program year:
“I have found that extending the table is more than just the opportunity for people to come together over vast geographic and cultural distances. It is more even than advocating for due process or the right of individuals to not be deported to a country where they fear being killed. I have learned that extending the table means, first and foremost, meeting people where they are. It is an invitation to sit down and listen; to accompany those who are suffering even, (and especially when) there’s nothing I can do to alleviate that suffering.
I remember one intake where my client reached across the table to the tissue box between us. “I’m sorry,” she said through tears, “But telling you what happened forces me to relive it. I can see it all before me again.” I felt bad, typing up her story and asking her to relate her worst memories to a complete stranger. Yet after the intake, she thanked me, “I’m glad I’m not the only one to carry that now.” Extending the table is an invitation to be, to accompany one another through both suffering and hope. When governments, whether from malice or indifference, have treated individuals as criminal and detainable, and ultimately expendable, meeting people where they are means shaking their hands and looking them in the eyes.
Extending the table means never forgetting the dignity of the human soul, no matter what policies, whether misguided or well-meaning, dictate about how we are to treat our neighbors.”