A popular story tells of a visitor to the Australian outback. The man visited an outback ranch was astonished to see miles and miles of farms without fences. When the visitor asked a local rancher how he kept track of his cattle, the man replied, “Oh, that’s no problem. Out here we dig wells instead of building fences.”
Fences are an impractical solution in the arid outback. The ranchers know that the cattle will continue to return for fresh water. The deeper the well, the cooler the water, the more drawn the cattle are to the well.
As I read this story, I thought, “Where am I digging wells in my life and where am I building fences?” I look around and see so many potential fences – political, religious, social, socio-economic, national. I put up fences out of jealousy, pride, discomfort, and prejudice. I fence out those who disagree, point out privilege, and challenge assumptions.
The world is far too complex for fences. Fences keep far more good out then they keep in. I don’t want to be a fence builder, content in my solid world of right and wrong, us and them, here and there. I refuse to keep people in or shut them out with rigid barriers of fear, hate, prejudice or doctrine.
I want to dig wells instead – deep wells of love, compassion, hope, charity, and inclusiveness. I want all who thirst to find relief in the communities and organizations I participate in. I will dig wells so deep that people will be drawn to the clear, cool water that overcomes indifference, prejudice, assumptions, and divergent beliefs.
We will be drawn to these wells despite our differences, finding commonalities, and anchoring ourselves first in love.
We will dig wells instead of building fences.