Bridging the porcupine-human divide for a more peaceful America

“Mommy, I’m a porcupine. Watch out!”

“Oh no! Please don’t get me with your pokey quills!”

“I won’t get you, Mommy. I like humans. My mom is a human. But my dad is a porcupine and so I’m a porcupine, too. But you better watch out, Mommy, because my dad is coming and he does nooot like humans.”


“Yeah, when he sees you, he’ll get you. He hates humans and he’s reeeally mean when he’s mad. Run, Mommy, run!”

“Ok, I’ll run, but wait a sec. Your dad doesn’t like humans?!?”

“Umm, no. He doesn’t like them aaaaat all. But…I think it’s because he just doesn’t know any.”

Here's one fierce little porcupine following swim class. Who knew his big brother would blow my mind with his simple insight?

Here’s one fierce little porcupine following swim class. Who knew his big brother would blow my mind with his simple insight?

Dude. Wow.

If we can overlook the obvious hole in the story—clearly porcu-dad must’ve “known” at least one human, and I’m certain his hatred was borne of her scorn—Charlie’s observation is profound. In one simple scene of preschool pretend play Charlie identified our problem and our solution…

Problem: Hate (See also judgment or disapproval)

Solution: Get to know that which you hate (or that of which you don’t know, or that of which you disapprove)

After recent conversations with a beloved and well-respected friend whose sociopolitical views are disparate from my own, I find in Charlie’s comment my marching orders.

I encourage you to join me in expanding your network of acquaintances or, better yet, friends, to include someone who’s your opposite in some way. Get to know someone who’s different from you—in terms of gender, race, culture, faith, sexual orientation, political belief, sports team affiliation, economic status, whatever—and try to get to know them. Even if just a little bit. And then tell me about it.

This goes for both sides of the coin, whatever your coin is. We’re all being called to open up just a smidge.

See, when a porcupine makes the effort to see a human, previously perceived as different, unacceptable, distasteful or worse, as a fellow child of God with his or her own heartache, hardships, loved ones and joys, love becomes that porcupine. And what’s a more powerful agent for that which heals individuals and the world than the energy of love?

4 thoughts on “Bridging the porcupine-human divide for a more peaceful America

  1. That is truly a deep insight! What a smart little porcupine.

  2. Pardon the long reply but this is awesome and inspired me to share a story that I’ve wanted to put on paper for some time. Pardon typos and poor writing, but it really is a great story (and I’m supposed to be working right now).

    “Kathy” is my best friend since kindergarten. We literally spent our entire childhood together. Both raised Catholic, but one from a very conservative Republican family (Kathy) and one from a liberal Democrat family (your’s truly). Of course as kids it did not matter. High school, we could see some differences (when my father ran for State Rep and her family voted against b/c he was pro-choice). College posed some challenges (sex, drugs and rock and roll… all of my favorite passtimes)… and as a result we drifted apart. That said, we still had a deep rooted friendship that we cherished. We just knew there were some deeply held values on both our sides that conflicted.

    When Bush ran for a second term, I made it my mission to send daily emails as to why he should not be president and criticized those who might vote otherwise. Kathy was on my distribution list. She never replied, despite my countless (and now in hindshight, I’m certain clueless) emails.

    Every so often, Kathy would share something with me, along with many friends, related to her faith. Mainly about pro-life. She shared stories of marketing in DC with her children. Being certified as a Natural Family Planning instructor. Asking for prayers for President Obama to change his mind about abortion. None were hateful, but I still rolled my eyes.

    I still stand pro-choice. But I will say, two years ago, Kathy showed me what it means to be pro-life. Shortly after I announced I was pregnant with our second child, she let me know she was expecting her fifth. But a few weeks later, she shared that her 20 week appointment showed that her baby was very compromised — only one kidney, a liver that was not developing and an enlarged heart. The doctor said the baby would most likely not make it full term and if “she” did, had a very slim change of living more than 24 hours.

    Kathy and I shared tears, talked often. After the grief, she embraced her pregnancy. She would call to ask how I was and we’d compare pregnancies. She’d tell me where to get a great deal on maternity clothes, etc. All the while, I was in absolute awe of her strength. I’d tell her how amazed I was, and she’s just reply, “It’s the only choice, in my mind.”

    I knew what she was saying to me. She was standing for her beliefs and doing it in such a peaceful yet powerful way.

    Two months after having Finn, our family went home to Abilene. Since Finn was our “Irish” child, we decided to have him baptized in the church my ancestors from Ireland started in Solomon, Kansas. The priest was good friends w/ my parents and really did a beautiful cermony for our little Finn.

    The next day, as we always do when I go back to Abilene, Kathy and I planned an afternoon together to catch up. She was 35 weeks pregnant.

    She held Finn. Smiled and loved on him. Gave him the sweetest onsie. Then, she cried. We both cried. She thought she was having labor pains and said she just wanted to see her baby. That she was so, deeply sad but that she never, ever questioned her choice.

    The next day, I was napping and my mother woke me to let me know Kathy had had her baby and that she wanted me to come see him (a little surprise, since the doctors told her it would be a girl). Without a thought, I jumped in the car and drove to the hospital.

    When I entered the room, Kathy and her husband were there, holding John Paul. She smiled when I came in and handed him to me.

    He was beautiful. He was perfect. He was peaceful.

    Kathy was beautiful. Kathy was perfect. Kathy was peaceful.

    I think I cried harder than Kathy. I cried for her, yet she was so incredibly proud of her baby.

    I knew why she was pro-life. And I had more respect for her than any protester, policy maker, researcher or the POTUS.

    I feel like I walked her her shoes a bit during all of that and it wasn’t until I held John Paul that I really understood the other side of the story.

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