Monday, February 27, 2017

Of Welcome Mats and Lines in the Sand

As I type this in my quiet house in my equally quiet neighborhood, I'm profoundly aware that my neighborhood could have been a lot less peaceful today. A few hours ago, as I was on my way home from an appointment, I noticed an officer directing traffic away from the Jewish Community Center just a few blocks away.

About an hour later, I learned the reason. A bomb threat had been received. Everyone -- from the small children who'd been removed from the swimming pool and carried, soaking wet in the once-again cold February air, to, I presume, the older adults using the gym and exercise facilities -- was evacuated. As I type this, the building has been cleared for re-entry, and everyone is safe. Physically.

From the time the building was erected, a banner has graced the front of the building: EVERYONE is WELCOME at the JCC. 

But this? This is not welcome. This is not okay.

There were children in that building. Babies. Older adults. Employees across a variety of age brackets at the front desk, in the gym, in the daycare, in the offices.

Human beings.

I wasn't there to take attendance today, but, given my knowledge of the clientele, I feel safe in saying that, far from being a haven for one group or culture, the building is a haven for all groups and cultures. When you tour the JCC or use its facilities, no one asks you what your religious preference is, or if you have one. No one cares if you're male, female, young, old, black, white or something else entirely. Instead, they invite you in. Sometimes, they even offer you something to eat.


And all of those people -- regardless of age, skin color, culture, gender or religion -- took care of one another today. My relief, while palpable, is minuscule in comparison to the that of the parents whose children were in that building, to the patrons, to the staff -- those who stepped up and kept those babies safe and those who went about the business of doing what they do every day.

Making sure that EVERYONE feels WELCOME at the JCC. 

My heart is heavy, and not just because I live nearby. My heart is heavy because we live in a world where, once again, someone felt that making a threat to intentionally hurt others was okay. Justified. Acceptable.

When did we become this country? A country that turns its back on refugees and immigrants and cultures and instead embraces ideologies that draw a line with "us" on one side and "them" on the other?

As is so often the danger with lines drawn in the sand, they miss their mark. There was no "them" at the JCC today, only "us." Our children. Our neighbors. Our friends.

Perhaps it's time to erase the lines in the sand and instead, seek common ground. To remember the past lest we are condemned to repeat it.

Only then do we stand any chance of keeping ourselves safe, let alone human.

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