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Posted August 6, 2003

An Essential Quality of Understanding
is to be able to Cross Borders


Taken from The Promise of Virtue
Author: Eugene Hemrick
Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, pp.152


Another dimension of understanding is the encouragement it gives us to cross boundaries that we have unnecessarily constructed. On a flight across the country, I met a woman who told me a story that exemplifies the importance of this attribute.

She was very exuberant, which I learned came from the fact that she was contemplating marrying again. As we conversed, I asked her what had happened to her first husband.

"One day my husband, John, wasnít feeling well," she said, Ďso we decided to go to the clinic for a check-up."

"As I was sitting there waiting, two medics rushed by me into the doctorís office. A few minutes later the doctor came out, walked toward me slowly, and said, "I am sorry to tell you this, but your husband had a heart attack and is dead. Would you please come in and look at him before he is taken away?"

"When I walked into the office and saw him lying there, my first feelings were anger," she told me.

"Like most couples, we were having our differences. What angered me most was that I didnít have the opportunity anymore to go over to his side and understand him better."

Understanding teaches us that the boarders we erect to distance ourselves from others actually distance us from our true selves more than they wall off others. "Look at our human nature," it tells us. "Isnít it contradictory to confine ourselves with boundaries? Donít they reduce our freedom of movement, and arenít they tantamount to creating paralysis? Demolish the psychological walls and cut through the human barbed wire you have constructed. Let life begin anew and be free again."

What happened to the woman described above is also happening on a larger scale in our society. The growth of gate communities and enclaves is curtailing our ability to dialogue with each other and is becoming a major concern. These communities are seen as escapes for people who canít comprehend and donít care to understand others. The people they are pushing away include persons from different cultures, youth, and the elderly. The real danger in this is that venturing out and mixing with others is stifled. When this happens it weakens the very foundation upon which our country and Christian community is built. Community life cannot survive long without openness to others and a willingness to understand each other.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late -- Ralph Waldo Emerson