Continued from Part 1…
F-7. That was my number. There again in the place I would love to bid goodbye forever.
We were all scanned in, checked in, and trapped. Waiting for that computerized voice to say “H-65” or “F-7.” Not that we heard the voice against the background of a hundred other voices; it was just a reminder to check the screen.
The room was heavy with anxiety and stale cigarette smoke on winter clothes. We were different colors. Different nationalities. But all in the dilemma of surviving the system.
An hour passed. Another hour buried in a legal system. This time to get permission to leave and re-enter the country while Spain ate up months processing my application. My paperwork, started in October, was now complete until they mailed me a list of more documents to wring out of someone somewhere. But if I left the country without special permission, I would have trouble re-entering.
“You need to fill out a form, give me copies of your card, your passport, and this other form, and pay a tax.”
“Is this completely necessary?”
“Where are you going?”
“And I can’t get this done today?”
She looked at her clock. “Not today. Come back tomorrow!”
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to reach across the desk and grab her by the neck or simply burst into tears. Lost in indecision, I did neither until I was dismissed.
Out on the street, I fumed, determined to leave Spain forever. I was tired of these daily trips to immigration offices. Tired of being an immigrant! Eventually, I calmed down and rearranged my schedule to fit in two more trips to the immigration office, gritting my teeth as I crossed off the rest of life to make room.
But something happened when I stopped fighting for my schedule and opened my heart to joy. Something happened when I stopped wishing I could be somewhere other than where I was and embraced the present, bumps and all.
The world began to brighten. Not much. But a shade enough to make a difference.
Even more discouraging than being lost in the immigration system was being lost in the system of discouragement. After all, when we reject the gift of joy, we reject the strength we need for daily life. Check out Nehemiah 8:10 if you doubt it.
On the way home from my final trip to the immigration office, I met up with an acquaintance. I squeezed her little girl close as we bounced home together on the bus, letting uninhibited, contagious giggles complete the joy of the present.