I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. Even as a young child, I remember hearing about the terrors of the world and shrinking into myself in fear. I fashioned in my head a hiding place–a pod made of thick steel with padded walls–and I hid myself there. This was a place where no spears or guns or bombs could reach me. This was a place where my anxiety could melt away.
But I wasn’t satisfied to imagine myself safe. I wanted to be safe. I wanted to find that steel pod, and climb into it. So I asked my mother, “Is there any place in the world that is completely safe?”
She hesitated, but answered gently, “Well, no place is completely safe.”
Thus, I inherited the human struggle of coming to terms with the fact that no place is completely safe, and I struggle with it to this day.
I think it’s easy, in a country like the U.S., to hold on to that childhood hope that we can keep the danger at bay. It’s easy, when many of us have only seen famine and war through our television, to imagine that we can build a wall thick enough to keep out every kind of disaster. It’s easy, when many of us have been isolated from the world around us, to think that we are better off in a steel cocoon, away from the world’s volatile wildness.
But no place is completely safe. No matter how high the walls, or how tight the immigration laws, there will always be threats to our safety. And from time to time, those threats will become a reality. There will be another terrorist attack, another natural disaster, another senseless shooting. There will be another fire, another car accident, another heart attack. These things are a part of our human experience.
There can be a kind of peace in accepting this inevitability. Not that we throw caution to the wind, but that when perfect security eludes us, we recognize that the perfection was only a mirage anyway. When our conscience compels us to open our doors, we acknowledge that they could have been broken down anyway.
If we choose this path, welcoming the world’s most vulnerable as our own, we will create good will with those around us. And, perhaps, if the day should come when our walls finally crumble and this empire falls, they will gather us in, just as we did for them.