The morning of December 25th 2016 I had a dream. It was short, maybe five seconds, and I saw something like an ink drawing of people sitting down at a long table on what might have been our country’s border with Mexico, and I heard a voice ask the simple question: What would our country be like if we replaced our walls with tables?
Then I woke up.
I usually don’t remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me and I kept thinking about it. What would that be like? What if we tore down our walls and out of the rubble constructed a huge table where both sides could sit down and eat? Where “both sides” disappear and there is just one table where everyone could come to a feast. And walls and borders don’t just mean the ones of our countries. Our gates, our privacy fences, all of our walls, physical, imagined, and otherwise. What would happen if we turned them on their sides and ate on top of them? What would happen if we understood that our safety, comfort, and ideology weren’t more important than the lives of others? What if we finally understood that no one wants to be tolerated, but loved? That no one wants simply to be heard, but to be understood? These are not rhetorical questions. I’m asking because I’m not sure what would happen.
Now you may be thinking, this isn’t safe. And you’re right. There is risk involved. Vulnerability abounds. Fears are exposed. Prejudices and preconceptions sound their concerns. Secrets come out into the light. But it’s good to be in the light. We see beautiful things in the light, things we haven’t imagined. We learn about others and ourselves. We learn that being human is more complex and far-reaching than our own experiences suggest, that life is far scarier and wild and beautiful than we previously understood. I am not proposing recklessness, but rather that the greatest safety comes in truly knowing our neighbors. We can build our walls high but walls can be scaled. We can hold our guns tight, but the barrel may jamb. But when you really know who you are, and when you really know who your neighbor is, that brings about peace.
So try it. Sit down with someone not like yourself. Go somewhere new. Share a meal with a stranger. Make new friends. And ask yourself, what would it be like if we replaced our walls with tables?