In 2015, Nancy Long treated a young bipolar man who came to the crisis center where she worked as a licensed clinical professional counselor. The young man wasn’t medicated properly, and his family feared for their safety and his own. “They were kind of afraid of him when he was in a manic phase,” says Long. “He could get dangerous.” Long wanted to help them, but that wasn’t easy. They were immigrants—likely undocumented—and lived in poverty. Not only was it difficult for them to find the time and the financial resources to help their son, but they also lived in the shadows, lacked job opportunities, and struggled to navigate the country’s complicated social service systems. “It was difficult to serve them, because they were so isolated,” says Long.
Cases like these are one reason Long supports immigration reform. The high barriers to legalization force families into hiding and distance them from resources that could aid the mentally ill. But Long’s support for immigration reform is also motivated by her deep Catholic faith, which took root in childhood. Her parents followed liberation theology. Like many progressive Catholics of their generation, they passed their values on to their children, taking Long and her siblings to marches for social justice. Long still remembers going to Washington, DC, in 1970 to support Cesar Chavez and the Salad Bowl strike, the largest farm worker strike in U.S. history.
By admiring and promoting artisans from other cultures, we change the atmosphere for immigrants right here.
Today, Long’s commitment to social justice reaches beyond her mental health work. She also sells fair trade products made by artisans from around the world and from local immigrant communities. “We like to think that by admiring and promoting artisans from other cultures, we change the atmosphere for immigrants right here,” says Long, recalling the time her shop sold bracelets made by a group of Hispanic women trying to make more money for their families. “The ability to do something to help other people is essential to my self-esteem and where I belong in the world, and that’s definitely informed by my faith,” says Long.