I used to have neighbors who had a beautiful pit bull.
This story began when David saw the dog as he was driving on the 110 Freeway. There she was, frozen in place and shaking, as cars swerved to miss her.
David pulled over to the side of the freeway, stopped the car and called as loud as he could for the dog to come to him.
So ... David dashed into the first lane, grabbed the frightened dog and brought her to the car. His wife was shaking too. She had held her breath as soon as David left the car and didn’t think she started breathing again until he returned.
David became attached to the pit bull. He named her Lillie.
Family life went on even though his wife did not warm up to having a pit bull. On one fateful day, the back door was left open and Lillie ran from the back yard, through the house and out the door. Lillie dashed across the street and attacked our neighbor’s tiny terrier. Everyone shrieked. Was this the last day that Lillie would be a part of the neighborhood? No it was not.
David cared about Lillie and was determined to keep her from escaping down the driveway. He heard about and decided on something called an “Invisible Fence.”
An invisible fence is a wire buried along the desired boundary or across the driveway or on top of an existing fence. If a dog approaches the wired boundary then an audible cue is sounded from the collar. If a dog crosses the wire boundary then the dog receives an unpleasant tingling sensation. With practice and conditioning, Lillie learned the ramifications of an invisible fence and she stayed in her boundaries.
It seems we humans have many invisible fences and boundaries with one another, some are “in” and some are “out.”
Some people we don’t even try to get to know: we hear they are dangerous, or they are too extreme, or they have the wrong political agenda or they are too—whatever—you fill in the blank.
But to finish this story of Lillie ...
Now, I did not have a desire to get to know my neighbor’s pit bull. I was glad for the invisible fence ... until one day when I went to the back door with extra lemons from my tree.
To my dismay, it was their dog Lillie who greeted me, then sniffed me and then wagged her tail. I put down the lemons and let her smell my hand then petted her. A prejudice had been dropped. Prejudices are meant to be dropped. They blind our hearts.
I am afraid we all have some blindness toward others and it seems we all have our invisible fences. I know that I do.
My invisible fences still take work to dismantle. My simple example from my opening story shows the power of change that happened when I got to know my next door neighbor’s pit bull.
Getting to know and love someone for who they really are is the power of God or your Higher Power or however you relate to the ultimate energy of love. For instance, I find intense smells of some homeless people hard to overcome and some hospital situations only God can get me through.
In our very polarized society, the God of us all calls us to cross invisible fences that wall us off from those in that other political party, that other denomination, that other faith tradition, that other ethnicity, that other socio-economic class, that other race, that other sexual preference.
The God of us all calls us to cross invisible fences that separate us from those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt. The God of us all calls us to cross all of our invisible fences, so that we may see and love others as God sees and loves them.
We are called to dismantle our invisible fences, our boundaries and prejudices.
We are called to dismantle the visible walls too. History will remember the words of President Ronald Reagan when he stood at the Berlin Wall in 1987 and said, “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall!" It was a wall which had divided West and East Berlin since 1961.
And if you read history you know those words led to effort upon effort until today there is one city of Berlin ... and God talks over and through our fences and walls and barriers right into the hearts of everyone on this one earth.