One of my favorite books of all time is The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read it for the first time in fourth grade, again in seventh, and nearly every year since.
In the past year I began collecting other books by Lois Lowry, and have only now–as in just this week–discovered that The Giver is actually part of a trilogy.
It’s like reading the The Fellowship of the Ring for years without ever getting to the Return of the King!
On our recent trip down the border with Chris and Jenn, I took along The Messenger, the last part of the trilogy. I loved it, of course. All three create a Utopian-type village, where they have somehow worked to eliminate whatever they felt was wrong in the world. For instance, in The Giver, all good things are eliminated with the bad, so that you cannot feel either–no color or taste or love or sunshine, but also no pain or discomfort in inequality or enduring a sunburn.
In The Messenger, the village accepts everyone, “a place that welcomed newcomers and offered home and homes to people fleeing poverty and cruelty.” As the story continues, the community members begin to “trade” parts of themselves for possessions, skills, or traits. Things begin to change, and some of the community suggest that they close the village to the outsiders they have always welcomed.
This is the quote that struck me.
“Some of those who had been among the most industrious, the kindest, and the most stalwart citizens of Village now went to the platform and shouted out their wish that the border be closed so that ‘we’ (Matty shuddered at the use of ‘we’) would not have to share the resources anymore.
We need all the fish for ourselves.
Our school is not big enough to teach their children, too; only our own.
They can’t even speak right. We can’t understand them.
They have too many needs. We don’t want to take care of them.
And finally: We’ve done it long enough.
Now and then a lone citizen, untouched by trade, would go the platform and try to speak. They spoke of the history of Village, how each of them there had fled poverty and cruelty and been welcomed at this new place that had taken them in.
…Then he heard the blind man begin to speak on his behalf: ‘My boy came here six years ago as a child. Many of you remember the Matty he was then. He fought and swore and stole…Village has changed him and made him what he is now,’ the blind man said. ‘He will receive his true name soon.’
…’I remember what he was like! If we close the border, we won’t have to do that anymore! We won’t have to deal with thieves and braggarts and people who have lice in their hair, the way Matty did then, when he came!’
Matty turned to look. It was a woman. He was stunned, as if someone had slapped him. It was his own neighbor, the very woman who had made clothes for him when he came. He remembered standing their in rags while she measured him and then on her thimble to stitch the clothing for him. She had a soft voice then, and talked gently to him while she sewed.” (p.85-86)
This reminded me of the US-Mexico border; of the Thai-Burma border; and really of society on the whole. It made me ache for the tendency in each of us to feel as though we’ve done enough or we don’t want to deal with it anymore. It’s too big.
Whatever “it” is. Suffering, I suppose.
I don’t have much in the way of conclusion. Just new challenges, new perspectives, and fresh aims at grace.