Breaking down barriers that divide us

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, January 29, 2019

In working on a story about Natchez’s community swimming pool, Natchez Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis made an interesting point when I was interviewing her.

Arceneaux-Mathis said the pool and other recreational activities give people a chance to interact with new people outside of their established circles.

Actually, Arceneaux-Mathis credited that concept to Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell’s Youth Council, which she said is considering hosting some sort of recreational event that is not associated with schools or other organizations.

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What an excellent idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against schools or other organizations, but I do believe, to some extent, we can sometimes get too entrenched in our own circles that we can lose touch with the broader community outside of our familiar and comfortable zones.

Being limited by those circles can hinder our experiences that otherwise might help expand our horizons, learn new things and have new experiences.

One example can be school rivalries.

In my school days, I was a Hornet and our rivals were the Eagles at a school across town. We viewed the Eagles only as rivals.

However, during a summer camp one year, I met some of the Eagles, and we become close friends.

Once we got outside of the context of our school rivalries we realized we were neighbors with common interests and common experiences.

After that summer, the school rivalry never seemed as severe for me and only existed on the athletic field.

Sometimes you have to strip down restrictions to see the broader possibilities.

By getting people outside of imaginary walls and getting people to interact in a neutral space, you might find out Cougars or Hornets aren’t so bad after all.

Recreation can provide that kind of bonding.

At the community swimming pool you have a chance of meeting more people outside of your already established circles.

At the ball field or playing golf you might team up with people who go to a different church or school than you and you might learn you have many things in common while bonding over a new experience.

In today’s world, we could use more reasons to bond with our fellow man.

It seems we have been focused on our divisions a lot lately.

Just because we may not agree on social issues or a legislative issues, should not mean we are enemies any more than we should be enemies because you live across town from me, go to a different school than me or worship at a different church than me.

By getting out of our circles and interacting with others, we might just learn we have a lot more in common than the things that are dividing us.

I hope the mayor’s youth council can pull such a recreational event together.

It might help begin breaking down barriers that have led to some of the violence that has plagued our community.

In the meantime, perhaps we can all start expanding our circles by taking advantage of some of the recreational opportunities available in the community and begin our own quests to break down those barriers.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or