We welcome Vincentian Jim Paddon as our latest contributor to the .famvin English site. He will be writing reflections for us twice a month on Thursday afternoons. You can read a little bit about him after his reflection. Thank you Jim! 

There has certainly been much talk and rhetoric over the past year or more about building barriers such as huge expensive walls that would ideally keep unwanted immigrants out of the USA. The playbook of those supporting this plan would lead us to believe there are hoards of felons, murderers and rapists waiting for the opportunity to enter the USA. and wreak havoc on good law-abiding Americans. If anyone watches the TV series Vikings, I guess you can understand the way the English must have felt waiting for these attacks to happen. OK, so I exaggerate a little, but I think this may help to explain how many of us living north of the longest free-standing border in the world perceive this issue.

Perhaps we should look at the more basic concept of building walls, not only of concrete, but of mistrust, hatred and misguided judgements of other people, especially of those who share a different language or race. I don’t know of any positive examples of where such a divisive idea has ever made for a better future for mankind. Instead, we have seen what building these walls, real or invisible has done to damaging the concept of brotherhood amongst all women and men.

Frederic Ozanam warned us over 180 years ago about the growing divide between the haves and the have nots and he told us if Vincentians and others did not mediate this divide there would be chaos. Inequality, whether economical or social can only lead us towards such chaos and division. These walls and barriers do not keep anyone safe, but they do isolate us from others and prevent any real dialogue based on the principle that every human being is born with and deserves a sense of dignity and the opportunity to participate in society. Where would the greatest nation in the world be today without the many immigrants who came in peace to simply find a better life and to build towards a more hopeful future without barriers.

Thankfully, Canada and the USA still have bridges across our borders and our long-standing relationship during two world wars has only strengthened this friendship and dependence on one another. We share many common values and goals which are the envy of many countries. I cannot think of a better example of what bridges across borders can mean than to look within our own Vincentian family, with its many branches in countless countries around the world. We cross many borders with the simple goal of following the words of Saint Vincent, Louise, Frederic, Rosalie and so many others to seek, find and serve Jesus Christ amongst those living in poverty. I doubt if any wall will ever stop us. If only the world could learn from us.

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.


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