08/04/2014 02:27 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2014

What Can You See Across a Border?

We recently returned from a two-week trip through Canada. We appreciate Canada and have enjoyed being in most of the provinces through the years. One thing that impresses us every time is that their television weather map does not stop at their border, whereas U.S. weather maps on TV show a vast "nothing" beyond our northern border. For two weeks we could grasp a larger picture. Ah, Maine and New Brunswick sit side by side.

What can we see across borders--all kinds of borders?

The House and Senate left for five weeks without any helpful action on the critical situation at the U.S. southern border.

Hamas tunnels are being destroyed; Israel rockets hit yet another U.N. school.

A commercial airplane is shot down flying high above a war zone on the border of Ukraine and Russia.

Thousands of Syrian refugees remain across borders in Jordan and Lebanon.

The Ebola virus spreads across borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria in West Africa.

It's all about borders and the need to understand people on other side.

What do we need to see in regard to the Ebola epidemic? People in the U.S. need to look beyond being only concerned that people in this country not be at risk. (Yes, we do need to ensure safety procedures in hospitals against diseases.) We need to see ordinary people in West Africa where the outbreak is by far the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of Ebola. We need to focus on the huge risk to people there who are being infected and dying. And, yes, help. For example, through Doctors without Borders.

How can we see people across borders when we build higher and higher walls?
How can we see people across borders from thousands of feet in the air?

What do we need to see when children are walking across the Texas border and turning themselves in to border authorities? Can most Americans even picture the countries of Central America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, from which the unaccompanied and migrant children are coming? We need to commit ourselves to global education beyond our own self-interests to see the complexities of the contexts. We need to understand the issues of drug trafficking in Central America, Mexico, and the United States, in which we also participate, which contribute to this migration. Even while holding divergent views on how best to shape and implement just and comprehensive immigration policy, we need to really see the children.

And we need to go beyond our fears which come from not really seeing, fears which breed rumors such as "Unaccompanied minors are carrying drugs" when drugs are not being found on the children from Central America. Tens of thousands of children are fleeing terrible poverty and gang violence in their countries. They risk dying on the journey rather than becoming killed in their home countries.

In the months before the full outbreak of World War II, more than 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia were sent by train to Great Britain. The "Kindertransport" saved their lives as their parents and relatives provided an escape from the horrors of Nazism.

Today parents from Central American countries face a similar dilemma, and they, too, have chosen to send their children to seek refuge from the horrors of daily life under the ruthless actions of drug cartels and street gangs. Rather than being welcomed, as were the Kindertransport children, they are received with suspicion and seen by many as intruders, opportunists and law-breakers. But some families and church and humanitarians groups are really seeing the children and offering hospitality and care.

On our trip, in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, we visited one of the settlements which was an endpoint of the underground railroad for slaves from the United States seeking safety and freedom in the mid-19th century. Refugees made it across a border.

Borders will always present challenges No one person or country can deal with a border crisis on their own, but together we can. We need to work with those communities and countries who feel so overwhelmed, not just for our sake, but for the sake of the world.

What do we see? We will not understand what we do not see. We will not be able to act wisely on what we do not understand. We need to look through not only a US lens. Moving beyond personal fear we can begin to see global consequences and search out global answers.

Home from Canada, I will this week be attending a memorial service for my friend Thom Determan who died slowly from cancer. Up to the very end he worked every day on global education. Purposeful work. Incomplete work that we all need to continue.