Thursday, May 4, 2017

We don't need walls for security, fulfillment - May 5, 2017 column for Las Cruces Bulletin

     I have been thinking a lot about walls, not just recently, but over many years. 
     Walls can keep people out. 
      Walls can keep people in.  
    Walls can separate between people so that they don’t have to get to know each other, deal with each other, or even look at each other.  
      It is curious that such a description of walls does not have to be about walls made of stone, or wood, or about fences, all of which create physical separations. 
     Unseen walls that reinforce divisions, grounded in disagreements or in cultural or ideological differences, may create a comfortable space for some people, a space where their views are not challenged.  
     Those walls, however, even more than physical ones, can form impenetrable barriers that prevent us from recognizing real aspects of life that we share as members of the human family. 
      We work hard. 
       We want to have a roof over our heads.
      We want to bring home enough money to pay our bills. 
      We want to have a secure future. 
      We want safe communities for ourselves and our children and grandchildren: neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities where we can productively work with our neighbors to make good things happen. 
       We want to see opportunities for people of all ages to learn, to expand their horizons, and to be engaged with other community members in common pursuits and interests.  
        We want health care that will help us stay stable, get better, or give us comfort as challenges to our well-being increase. 
       Some people will want to pass by and through invisible or real boundaries around neighborhoods, states, or countries in order to assist people who need help and support.    
       These "wants" have a way of putting all people in one place, in one category, with no wall to separate them.   
        The only divisions that might persist would be those that we create in our minds and hearts, the ones that are harder to tear down, including the walls that rise all too quickly when we begin to discuss how to address at least some of these wants for as many people as possible. 
       Quotes about walls (yes, I did an aggressive search online) include declarations that walls may be present so that we can demonstrate our strength and will to bring them down.  
       My tradition also teaches that a house of worship must have windows in its walls so that the people worshipping don't forget that there is a connection between the words they pray (about forgiveness, the sanctity of creation, freedom, gratitude, and peace) in that space and their actions in the outside world.  So it is with many other contexts in which we live and work, where we learn values and lessons that we can apply to daily life.  
      Challenging a wall's existence can be the expression of a strong desire to join with others in constructive and cooperative action for the benefit of many people. 
     And so, may we work together to create a world where walls, solid or invisible, need not stand in order for people to feel fulfilled, hopeful and secure.  


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