We the people -flag and declaration of independence

Welcoming the Stranger

We are a nation of strangers. Welcoming the stranger when we’ve needed them to farm our fields, lay our railroads, or build our skyscrapers has always been part of our country’s philosophy. On Monday many of us will again be waving flags, grilling burgers and hotdogs, and watching fireworks to celebrate our independence.

In the 1600 and 1700s European countries, especially England launched hundreds of ships full of immigrants who eventually established what became the United States of America. By the mid-1700s those immigrants concluded the oppression from the British Empire was intolerable. Patrick Henry’s cry, “Give me liberty or give me death,” resonated with enough people that we eventually did gain our independence from Mother England.

You’d think that experience, along with the waves of other immigrants in the 1800s and 1900s, would make us sympathetic to the plight of immigrants today and better at welcoming the stranger. Desperate people today seek freedom from violent, oppressive, and abusive situations in their home countries. Unless we descend from Native Americans or Africans brought here on slave ships, we carry within us the DNA of immigrants.

One Human Race, Many Nations

There is only one human race, but we have organized into diverse nations for thousands and thousands of years. One way we define ourselves is by what country and ethnic group nurtured our ancestors. For me, that is about equal amounts of English and German influence. Ancestors on my mother’s side left England in the 1600s to get away from the reign of King James. My father’s parents left Germany in the 1800s because there was no future for them there in the late 1800s. Strangers helped them get settled into their new country because welcoming the stranger was part of their attitude toward immigrants.

Thousands of years ago humans put walls around cities and established borders to define geographic regions. Clear borders make for good neighboring countries, though it isn’t always that obvious where one country ends and the other begins. People have been migrating from country to country for as long as there have been people. Today President Zelensky and his people are either fighting valiantly to preserve the borders of Ukraine or fleeing in droves to escape the assault on their country. I watch in horror at the intentional carnage to a people that want only to be their own free, independent nation.

Open and Closed Borders

Borders are neither good nor bad, merely a way to know where one country ends and another begins. It is how the border crossings are regulated that either creates good relationships or conflicts and wars. Ideally, all borders would be open. Realistically, borders need to be regulated to protect people from invasion by those who would do them harm. Desperate people fleeing violence are not among those who are a threat. They are the threatened, and that is often why they are migrating.

A border official who tears a terrified toddler away from people the child knows and trusts inflicts a catastrophic trauma on that child. It does not matter why the stranger took the child. Nor does it matter how kind the stranger is. The situation creates trauma the child may never overcome. We know from brain research that trauma in young children actually changes the way the child processes the world. We are literally creating future mental health problems by inflicting such trauma on small children.

Desperate Parents

Desperate parents do desperate things. If they stay in their home country they face the all too real possibility that gangs will snatch their children from them. Even if that does not happen, the chances their children can find adequate, legitimate work are limited. So they migrate. They travel to a place they’ve been told all their lives is the land of liberty and justice for all,  arriving to encounter strangers who take their children from them.

Borders are human designations. From space, borders are invisible; which is perhaps the way God views our global community. From space, Earth is one beautiful blue and green planet, populated with people of many skin tones, languages, customs, and traditions.

Borders are useful for organizing the current estimated 7.6 billion residents of Planet Earth into 195 countries. Countries oversee the collective needs of the citizens within each country. When governments rule with justice and compassion, things run fairly smoothly. When they do not, chaos, calamity, and carnage soon take over. When that happens, people leave in search of a better place to live.

More Bridges, Fewer Barriers

I wonder if we aren’t too quick to put up barriers and too slow to build bridges. Every single person who is now a significant part of my life was once a stranger I had to get to know. The only exceptions are my parents and my brothers. Strangers are friends we haven’t yet gotten to know. If we talk to someone long enough, we’ll discover we have things in common. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying; “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”

As we celebrate our Independence from England, I hope we can also acknowledge the plight of so many today who are seeking their own independence from oppression. I hope we can make their arrival at our borders one of hope and encouragement for the future. I pray we will find ways to turn strangers into new friends.

         Let freedom ring – everywhere, for all people.

Thank you for taking time to read this article. Share it with a friend or sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio.
Bookshop.org (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies available from BlueWillowBookShop.com/book/


  1. What at an important message at an important time — both this time in history and this time of celebrating our independence. Thank you for this clear-eyed perspective.

  2. You cover all the bases of our very complex current world. More in-depth consideration is desperately needed. What the average citizen thinks counts. Thank you for opening the discussion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *