The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out. (from The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien)
This week, I and some other folks from my church are hosting a group of students from Abilene Christian University (my alma mater) who are spending their spring break here doing service. For those of you who are not familiar with ACU, it’s a small school in a smallish town in West Texas, and so it can sometimes seem a little isolated from the wide world. But every year a couple hundred students decide to give up their spring break and scatter across the country (and some outside of it) in order to encounter the world and to try to make it a little better.
I was thinking of these students who are staying in my home this week when I chose this quote, but I was also thinking about just how very true this statement is. No matter how hard we may try to keep ourselves hidden away from the wide world, it always seems to find its way in. Sometimes in small ways, like reading a Facebook status from a former student from Japan saying that she had heard from her parents this week and that they’re okay. Other times, it comes in a big way, when we or someone we love become victims of tragedy: crime, disease, abuse. The wide world demands our attention when, suddenly, any given tragedy is not something that happens to nameless, faceless other people, but to ourselves and to people we know. But the truth is that we are never able to keep it out at all, and rather than being surprised to find the world on our doorsteps, I think it’s better and braver to go out and meet it, to not close our eyes to what is going on with other people in other places, and to do what we can to make it a better place.
Earlier this week, Kristi urged us all to find some way to help alleviate the tragedy in Japan, whether through prayer, or donations, or whatever means available, and I’ll echo that today. Don’t fence yourself in.