Friends and Fear. Lessons From Tijuana.

As Felix and I walked back to the border checkpoint he told me a parable.

A young monk was seeking training so he made his way to a special monastery just for the purpose. 

He accidentally traveled to the wrong monastery, so an old monk volunteered to take him the 3 day journey to the right place. 

These monks were of a very peculiar order, and could have no contact with women of any kind! The young monk especially took these rules very seriously. 

On the first day of their journey, the two monks came to a small river to cross, and an older woman was waiting, contemplating how she was to get to the other side. In compassion for the woman, the old monk offered to carry over, and she agreed.

As they approached the other side, the old monk put down the woman and they parted ways, she grateful for the help. 

As they continued their journey, the young monk was indignant, mortified that the older monk had broken one of their cardinal rules, he touched a woman, spoke to her, even helped her! 

For three days the young monk worried, complained, repented on behalf of his superior, and wondered what would happen to them for breaking their vow.

As they approached the monastery the young monk became increasingly nervous. 

The old monk looked at the younger and said, “I put down that lady 3 days ago.” 

As I pondered the last few days of being among migrants who have travelled from Central America in search of something, anything other than the egregious violence and desperation of their homes, I felt this parable appropriate.

We all look at what these men and women might have done in their past, who they could or could not be. We wring our hands from the safety of our kitchens, from the the comfort of our armchairs while we watch the evening news.

Like young monks we complain that these people are dangerous, untouchable, that they did this to themselves, that we are not to get involved! Our religious duty is piety, purity.

Maybe, like an old monk, it’s okay if we choose to show compassion and love, serve our neighbor even if someone told us we’re not supposed to.

And when we’re assailed for our choice to reach across a border–weather it be a river, a fence, or socioeconomic divide– maybe it’s ok if we just put the lady down, and keep walking.

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