Dear Fellow Travelers,
A few weeks back, driving up I35 on my way to Denton, I passed Texas Motor Speedway and saw a message flash on the sign that said: “Get Well Soon Smoke!” It confused me at first until a man’s face appeared and I realized that “Smoke” must be the nickname for a race-car driver. As I continued down the highway, I wondered about this man, his importance to race car fans and what his illness or injury might be. Then I thought about how important it is to be part of a community.
So many of us live in large metroplex areas, or at least in towns that are so large that not everyone knows everyone else. We often no longer live close to our families, having left the tribal & village setting for much larger spaces. Some of us work or go to school in cities other than where we live. It’s vitally important that we find a sense of belonging in subgroups within our community. We all need to know there’s someone out there that notices when we don’t show up for something. When this doesn’t happen, people can feel lost in the crowd. It’s important for humans to connect to other humans to avoid feeling disconnected and alone.
So groups are important as we see how they help people feel less isolated, but belonging to a group can also be counterproductive in helping us connect to individuals outside the group. When we over identify with the group, then what happens? The group can become something more than a safe place of belonging, causing us to be suspicious and fearful of those outside “our tribe”. We need to stretch ourselves beyond the security of our groups and reach out to those beyond the circle. As we do, we’ll begin to feel a greater sense of connectedness to everyone around us.
On a recent trip to the post office I got to witness the power of connection. I had just dropped a birthday card in the mail when I heard the indescribable sound of a toddler’s voice. Captured by joy, I turned and witnessed a tiny little boy, eyes wide open, sharing something with the postal clerk that was clearly of great importance to him. His mother was waiting patiently as he connected with the clerk behind the counter. I looked up to see a huge smile on the man’s face, full of appreciation for a small child intent on revealing the secrets of life. Leaving the post office, I was present to the way the child had spoken, straight from the innocence and beauty of his toddler heart. It didn’t matter to him that the man behind the counter was much older, that his skin was a much darker shade or that his hair was in dreadlocks. What was important to him was the passion and enthusiasm he shared with this man who was interested in what he had to say.
I’m a shy person who doesn’t bond with people easily. In recent years I’ve been able to release a lot of the discomfort I feel reaching out to new people. What I’ve found is that as I authentically share myself with others, I actually feel safer in the world as I feel the connection we share as fellow human beings. When I venture past the fortress walls and interact with strangers, time and time again, I see a light in their eyes when they respond. It’s as if they recognize me from another time and place. I feel affirmed and appreciated just like my little friend in the post office. Joy sparks in my heart and suddenly I feel that I belong. I still have my groups who share common experiences and interests with me, but as I become more a part of the entire human experience, I feel less alone in the world.
We all need groups in which we feel a sense of belonging, but we also benefit by reaching outside our groups to sense the connectedness beyond the boundaries. There is joy to be found in the experience as demonstrated so clearly in the scene at the post office that day. I’m grateful for that tiny little moment in my life and, I wish for all of us eyes to see and openness of heart to participate in these types of simple connections with others.
Blessings & Light,
In the tapestry of life, we’re all connected. Each one of us is a gift to those around us, helping each other be who we are, weaving a perfect picture together.