Last year, on Holy Thursday, we marched from Iglesia Hispana Emanuel to La Superior Carnicería in Durham, North Carolina, all of us carrying signs and banners, chanting against the federal government’s deportation of undocumented members of our community. We processed through town, past Latinx neighborhoods and storefronts, bearing crosses, remembering people who had been torn from households by la migra. We eventually assembled in the parking lot of a grocery store for a holy footwashing, a worship service in solidarity with members of our immigrant community. In it we commit our hands to serve their lives, bowing before them in reverence.
I took my place at a chair, with a gallon jug of water and a stack of towels. I held in my hands the feet of each person in line, one after another. A young girl, perhaps eight years old, plopped herself before me. After I washed her feet, she returned to the back of the line and waited for another turn. Over and over she took a seat in front of me and said, “My feet got dirty again.” Then she stuck them over the basin while I poured water and dried them with a towel. She smiled. I knew this child. I had washed her feet before, during our past holy week footwashing protests. Her dad brings her every year. She’s always the first in line.
A woman sat in front of me and lifted her foot toward me. I remembered her because she’s missing most of her big toe. As she held her feet over the basin, ready for the water, I noticed that the rest of her toenails were painted with a bold, purple nail polish.