You know that scene in It’s A Wonderful Life where Mr. Potter tries to take everything away from George Bailey? And do you remember the next part where the entire town rallies around him and raises the money he’s missing, because they know that he will always, always be on their team? Over the past four days, I have been living just such a scenario. I am neither George Bailey. Nor (thankfully), am I Mr. Potter. I am Mr. Gower, Violet, Sam Wainwright.
Veronica Noriega is an irreplaceable part of our greater Seattle community. She has sacrificed a great deal to be here, and she has consistently done so with extraordinary generosity and strength. For the last 18 months, Veronica’s husband Ramon has been in immigrant detention in Tacoma (In case you didn’t know, Tacoma is home to one of the country’s largest detention centers, privately run by the GEO Group). During her husband’s detention, Veronica has organized and lead solidarity events outside of the center and worked three jobs, all while being a mother to three children.
None of these things matter to her bank or to her landlord. Today, Veronica and her children are on the verge of homelessness.
I want you to understand why Veronica is so much like George Bailey. I want you to understand that, like George, Veronica loves her family. Like George, she loves her community, her neighbors. Like George, she has dreams and aspirations that have been put on hold over and over again, in service of those around her. Like George, she needs her community’s help.
This is not a story that will end with Veronica running through the streets of Seattle shouting “Merry Christmas, you old Building and Loan!” It won’t have a white, male protagonist, perfectly timed music, or an adorable angel named Clarence. But none of that is what matters. What matters is that we choose to give Veronica the same kind of love that we give a fictional character from a fictional town.
Last week, I went on a date. As we sat talking about things far too cerebral for just about anyone’s taste but our own, my date leaned in and whispered, “You know that romanticized notion of the 1920s drug store, where the kids know the guy behind the counter?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a Wonderful Life; Mr. Gower!”
“I want that back,” he whispered.
I want that back too, but I don’t want it just for the few people who had it in the first place. I want it for everyone. I want it for Veronica Noriega. I want it for her husband Ramon and for her children. I want the lawyers and the landlord and bank who think she is unloved and alone to know, beyond all doubt, that she is loved and she belongs here.
So I am inviting you to participate in a story of high ideals realized, of love winning. I’m asking you to improve upon a Frank Capra classic where the color of your skin and the language you speak do not determine whether you can be the hero of the story.
Veronica needs $8000 by July 1st in order to own her home and pay her legal fees. What’s more, over the course of one year, she will pay that money back to the organization that is raising funds for her, so that the money can go into a revolving fund for people in similar situations. Any money raised in addition to what Veronica needs will go immediately into that fund.