“Criss cross, double cross. No one else can play. For if they do I’ll take my shoe and beat them ’til they’re black and blue. Period.”
When I was a young girl we would gather in the neighborhood to play games. Kickball, hide and seek, whiffle ball, wire ball, Lost in Space. (Now I just dated myself!) If we had the right complement of players we would close the game. And usually closing the game was done when I played with just girls. Co-ed games seemed open to stay open for late arrivers to the game.
After the game was closed if someone wanted to join we would say, “No.”
We said, “No.”
We closed the game.
I look back now on this and I wonder how long did the person left out feel terrible. I want to go back to that younger me and shake her. I want to say, “What are you doing? How do you think that little girl feels?”
Thank goodness I grew out of that stage. At least I think I have.
We draw lines in every area of our lives rather than opening the doors to all. Welcoming all. We say, “This belief is the right belief. In order to be a member you have to believe this.” Or at least you have to recite something that attests to the fact that you agree to that belief.
We draw these arbitrary lines that say YOU can come in, but YOU must stay out. You are a member and you aren’t. Country clubs. Sports teams. Country girls. City girls. Jersey girls. New Yorkers. Black. White. Latina. Asian. Mixed race. Democrats. Republicans. Libertarians. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Orthodox. Non-orthodox. Atheists. Agnostics. Straight. Gay. Bi. Transgender. Rich. Poor. Fat. Skinny. Americans. Illegals. Educated. Uneducated. White collar. Blue collar. Pink collar. Workers. Management. Vendor. Customer. Open-minded. Close-minded. Blue eyes. Brown eyes. Northerners. Southerners. It goes on.
Looking back I realize I have never done well with these boundaries. I remember in my second grade catholic classroom asking my teacher what happened to little babies who did not know about Jesus. I don’t remember the answer, but I do remember asking the question.
I never liked hearing that there was only one way to salvation. Honestly, I think God probably laughs at that. I guess we will find out when we pass into the afterlife and meet with whomever greets us. Meantime, I have found my peace with God and the drawing of lines. I like to challenge the lines that stand in my way. But I don’t impose my beliefs on anyone. That is a personal decision for each of us. And if you don’t have a belief, that is cool too. Really, this is a personal decision.
Many years ago, I traveled to Norway for business. I remember hearing that the Finnish people were often the butt of the jokes told by Swedes and Norwegians. Kind of like the ethnic jokes you might hear in your circles. I remember thinking how strange it was because I had no preconceived notion of Finnish people. But I knew someone was closing the game on them.
I lived and worked for many years in New York City. It was a blast, for a time. Lots of excitement, things to do, cultural events, multiple languages being spoken by people passing you on the street. You could wear your hair/clothes any way you liked and no one cared. But when I decided to move out of the City I bumped into all sorts of boundaries from both sides. “Wow! I could never live in the City.” “Why are you moving out into the middle of nowhere?”
Most of my life has been about mixing things up. I taught Sunday school at a Catholic church and offered mandalas for the kids to color and use for quiet meditation. Mandalas are found in Buddhist monasteries and church windows, like the one below that is a replica of the North Rose Window from the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
In that same Sunday school class room, in the bowels of a Catholic church, we signaled the beginning and end of our sessions by ringing a Tibetan singing bowl, the sound deep and resonating. A symbol from another tradition that was enhancing our own.
Likewise, I have always been attracted to mezuzahs. It is a beautiful tradition where you have a scroll with the most holy prayer placed inside a decorative case mounted to the doorway in the threshold of your home. You touch it and pray as you cross the threshold, offering blessings and thanks. I have always wanted one. So we made our own version of one. Dennis made a pollinator hotel for native and mason bees and I placed within it scrolls containing prayers from many religions.
I love the mixture of it. The intermingledness (if that is a word).
And finally, I am grateful to have a son who is also a compilation of multiple worlds. City boy. Country boy. Black and white, with a few more ethnic traces running through his blood. African-American. Cherokee. Irish. English. German. French. Dutch. Scottish.
A pattern is emerging and as I take stock I can see it more clearly. I believe there are no differences in all our differences. We are one.
So why do we draw lines? I guess I am still asking the same questions.