Moving Fences

Quick Look

If a “boundary” begins to strangle you, it’s no longer a boundary, it’s become a wall, even a prison. How can a boundary do its job, yet somehow be “permeable”?

The Tale

Immediately after the devastation of the First World War, the Society of Friends (“Quakers”) distributed food and clothing to the impoverished people of Poland. One relief worker, who had served a variety of villages, suddenly contracted typhus and died within twenty‑four hours. Since only Roman Catholic cemeteries existed and canonical law forbade burying anyone not of that confession in consecrated ground, townspeople buried their cherished missionary friend in a grave just outside the cemetery. The next morning, however, it was discovered that someone had moved the fence during the night. The cemetery now included the grave.

The Tale Wagged

This story balances the post, Boundaries.

Although boundaries keep me safe, I must see when they get so rigid that they exclude life and love. When that happens, a door or window may need to be cut into the wall. Or a fence may need to be moved.

Here’s a few examples of people may have moved their fences.

  • a wife who’s come to enjoy professional football;
  • a man who knits afghans (of course, only his wife and I know about it);
  • another man who regularly makes time to draw pictures with his three‑year‑old daughter (and genuinely enjoys it).

These examples (they happen to be about gender) might have defined them or kept them safe, but they saw it was time to expand the notion of who they were.

When groups of people do this (as in our opening story), the effects can be far reaching. Real fence moving is not “Do Gooding,” where people do what they think they ought to do. Fence moving comes from the heart, when people, singly or in groups, see that they must risk some of their “comfort zone” to make a boundary permeable.

Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?

Let yourself become connected to a person, activity or an attitude that has made you uncomfortable, judgmental, defensive or hostile.

  • enjoy someone you’d thought was stupid or misled,
  • see a movie you’d thought was childish,
  • start a hobby you think belongs to the opposite gender, or
  • check out a book you think is off‑limits.

For example: if you’re a guy, try knitting; ladies, let yourself learn how to change a tire.

Attitude, however is everything; break down a wall (“move a fence”) for the adventure of it, lightly, without great expectations.

If you do it to prove a point to someone else, it won’t be too useful.

Echoes: What Others Have Said about Moving Fences


About RayMunn

Husband, father, Zen guy, web designer, film-maker.
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