Blurry Lines

Blurry Lines

written by: Mark Janssen
by: Mark Janssen

The world has always been a place where there are absolutes. The sun goesup before it goes down. Air, water and food make human life possible. Plants make chlorophyll, not humans or animals.

Just as there are physical absolutes and limitations, as children we are told that there are certain rules one must follow. Open doors for ladies and elders. Wash your hands before meals. No bringing frogs and toads home from the woods and keeping them in the house. Or, as I told a friend some time ago when his sons wanted spiritual advice, eat your vegetables, do your homework, and obey your parents.

Lines blur as adults. The social lines we learned as children don't always hold fast.

This year we celebrated Hannukahmas in our home with Jewish friends. Between the meatballs and latkes they made and the chicken stew I made, the kitchen looked like there was enough to feed the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Maybe another tribe or two, besides.

What is the point of celebrating only Hanukah or only Christmas when you can combine them and have an even better celebration? I have spent Christmas holidays in places where there were several feet of snow and others where I walked in the ocean. Sometimes there has been one friend. Sometimes there have been houses bursting to the seams. Some years the feast has been Chinese take-out. Some years it's been the groaning board.

What is important is that each and every year there was love.

God doesn't care what or how much we eat. We can feast on a glass of water or a seven course meal. He also doesn't care whether or not we believe in His existence. Humans are, after all, perfectly imperfect. What matters are our hearts. The state of who we are. Our willingness to go beyond who we were yesterday. Our daring to become even more of our true selves each second of life.

Many times I have been chastised for so deliberately blurring the red lines separating humans. It's just that after a lifetime of being told I can't blur the red lines—and doing it anyway—it's a way of life.

It was being told in college that I must not have an Arab Muslim friend that made me cherish his gifts of friendship even more. Or having friends from other cultures or countries whose goodness of spirit made me hungry to learn more about the people and places I didn't know. The lace curtains that were supposed to separate me from the wealth of humanity were torn apart. Thus, I am enriched.

More than economic riches, life is looking into the next year at the wealth and abundance of humanity. Of seeing all the incredible things we have known and learned so far in life and building upon that.

We can blur the lines between humans to accept more people—and more goodness—into our lives. To do that we have to clearly delineate where we have been and where we want to go. We have to be willing to discover we are on the way to someplace entirely different in our lives than we might have imagined. Completely different people, total strangers, may become our next best friends.

When I was a child I belonged to a religious minority. In the town where I grew up I was called by what now is called the n-word.

I was called a nigger.

Those same kids who called me a nigger when we were very young later became my friends. My father had prepared me for that. He told me not to call people niggers. He told me that the person who might call me that could one day be my friend.

How did he know?

He grew up in the same area. He had gone to the same high school. He knew lines that seemed all sharp and clear when we are young became blurred with experience. He knew it was just fine for his son to grow up. To turn pain into strength.

That is a lesson that has stuck. It's okay to change. It's okay to walk into a new day or year and dive in.

Head first.

Feel the joy of a new life beyond expectations.

written by: Mark Janssen

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