Bridges Not Walls

by Donna VanHorn

“Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote Robert Frost in his poem “Mending Wall.”

It was written while Frost lived on his family’s farm in New Hampshire. My husband’s a New England native, and appreciates the practicality of stone walls. They were the tangible result of the region’s earliest settlers’ efforts to clear the land for farming. As they prepared their acreages for the first plantings, they pulled rocks and stones from the dirt and piled them in an orderly line along their properties’ boundaries. In his teens, my husband and his father roamed the back roads of Rhode Island looking for abandoned stone walls to “raid” for the backyard patio they were building. Once the project was done, they discovered there was a flat slate headstone that had inadvertently found its way into the terrace. But I digress.

I can understand the logic of Frost’s maxim if it has

to do with respecting each other’s possessions and personal space. On the other hand, it contradicts my Christ-centered concept of loving your neighbors so much you’ll take extraordinary steps to reach out to them to strengthen relationships. The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one of many examples Jesus shared with His followers. Building bridges to restore broken relationships, and to establish new ones, is what Jesus teaches us throughout Scripture.

Ephesians 2:14 “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”

Donna VanHorn and her husband, Jared, live in retirement in a West Des Moines, IA, suburb. Donna is a mentor to younger women and leads women’s Bible studies in her home. This is from a devotional series, her second publication.

Mending Wall

BY ROBERT FROST

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

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