boundary spanning

Posted on March 21, 2012


Life Experiences Leading to an Life of Inclusion;
Valuing Diversity and Embracing Community

In our quest for comfort and certainty in our lives do we actually sacrifice the one thing that will sustain our lives, give us meaning and purpose, give us life???

All people are created equal. Right? Then why does it seem that some are more equal than others? And a greater question is, why do I treat some more equal than others???

Do I really believe in equality? Then my life would show that through the diversity that I cultivate in my life.

“We must depend on diversity.” Systems of life in our world do not survive without diversity. Study any biological system and you will see that a closed system that shuts itself off from diversity (outside organisms and influences) stagnates. A pond is one of the clearest examples of this. Systems of life that include a diverse spectrum of organisms survive and thrive. If you believe in creation, then this is how our world was created. If you don’t, well it is still the way of this world.

So why aren’t we intentional about diversity???

For some fortunate reason, back in my 20s, after having lived in a homogenous community all my life, I decided to be very intentional about diversity. I had married an African American woman and we adopted a biracial son. I ended up raising him alone due to divorce four years later. But that made me even more intentional about diversity, because I wanted him to know who he was and be around others that he could relate to. Five years later, I married an Asian woman and had two beatiful natural born kids. So because of my relationships and my own diverse family of three races, I continued on my quest of intentional diversity.

But I know within that the deeper reason is because of my belief the in the absolute equality of all people. I wanted, down deep, to learn to relate to all. No matter their race, no matter their ethnic or cultural backgrounds, no matter their economic situation, no matter their beliefs, their religion, their philosophy, their creed, WE ARE ALL ONE. So if I am to be uncompromising in this belief, then I must intentionally choose to cultivate diversity into my life experiences .

I will not work in a place that is not diverse.

I will not live in a place that is not diverse.

I will not worship in a place that is not diverse.

My friendships will be diverse.

My time will be spent nurturing diverse relationship.

My conversations will be with people that think, believe, and see things differently than I do.

Even the books I read are books that present very differing perspectives on life.

Why would I be threatened by something that enriches my life, my mind, my soul, and my heart???

I will not worship the god of comfort that bids me seek out sameness, conformity, similarity, and homogeneity. Why would I?

Organizational Boundary Spanning

Organizations exist to solve a problem and fulfill a very specific purpose. But when they become closed silos, they tend to shift their purpose for existence to self-prepetuation. We must intentionally connect with others across organizational boundaries in order to prevent our organizations from becoming stagnant ponds bent on one purpose: ego or self-perpetuation.

This truth exends to all organizations, whether churches, nonprofits, for profit businesses, government agencies, or community based organizations. In particular, I think that religious organizations and churches should take head. Churches largely segregate themselves into their nice niches of sameness wondering why their relevance is waning in a culture that has become so diverse.

Tremendous value and wisdom can be drawn from diversity.

When an organization becomes a closed system or a functional silo,

growth and development is stunted leading to stagnation and ultimately to ruin.

In the Twenty-First Century, the only viable, sustainable way
to meet the tremendous needs of our communities is through collaboration.

Through spanning the boundaries of organizations,

silos of practice must become communities of practice.


Racial Boundary Spanning

All aspects of my life have been cultivated in diversity; everywhere I haved lived, worked, worshiped; my friendships and relationships. My second oldest son experienced, in kindergarten, a circle of kids in the Christian school he went to surrounding him with chants of “Chinese boy, Chinese boy, Chinese boy.” Never again! Those kids had been raised without being around people of different races. What a tragedy that my son had to bear the brunt of that ignorance. The rest of their education was in mult-racial public schools where they could learn to live with the people that live in their community, rather than be segregated racially to be educated.

For me, racial reconciliation is not an option.

It is not good enough for me to just say,

“I am not prejudiced” or

“I am not racist.”

It must be visible; something I do.

Racial reconciliation must be intentional with unquestionable deliberacy;

individually, organizationally, and community-wide.


Economic Boundary Spanning

What does it mean to live in poverty. I talked to a lady a while ago that said in their suburban church they were studying the Bible and how Jesus was a friend of the poor.  One person said, “I don’t know anyone that is poor.” They all looked at each other bewildered. None of them did.

I now work with people that are 99% in extreme poverty. People with disabilities are some of the poorest people in America. My kids go to the public school where I worked for 20 years where 85% of the students are living in poverty. Now, THAT is education in my book.

I have friends and family that are upper class and in poverty.

Life’s experiences and choices have allowed me to feel poverty,

both in others and in myself.

This capacity . . .

to navigate across boundaries and learn from all

. . . is life’s gift.

This capacity . . .

To navigate across boundaries and learn from all

. . . opens our eyes to the tremendous gifs embedded in all of humanity.

Who is my teacher? YOU! You are my teacher.


Relational Boundary Spanning

I’ve had friends and family members of many different races. I have befriended, mentored, and been mentored by people with down syndrome, dwarfism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, paraplegia, quadriplegia, bipolar depression, borderline personality,  autism, and friends that have fought and lost against aids, cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis. I have learned deeply from each of them. They have all become my teachers

Diversity is a gift.

We must learn to value diversity.

We must learn to embrace diversity.

Not only in our racial attitudes

but also in the input we seek for resolving daily conflicts;

not only in how we accept peoples’ appearance

but also in how we accept and embrace differences

in personalities and perspectives,

ideas and opinions,

as well as values and beliefs.


Only by spanning boundaries can we learn

. . . and see beyond ourselves.