community

community

As we Americans approach Independence Day — aka the Fourth of July — here's a modest proposal. How about adding an annual INTERdependence Day to remind us of something we seem in danger of forgetting: "We're all in this together!"

A society where that simple fact has been forgotten is not a society: it's a nightmare.

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt touched on something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently — our increasing political and cultural polarization in the United States, and how we rarely encounter the “other” any longer. I reflect on this with an agricultural metaphor — that we are becoming monocultures. Just as that isn’t the best thing for ecosystems, it’s not great for communities of people either.

Rumi's mystical poetry often helps me regain perspective on life. In this poem, I love his notion that being human is like being a "guest house." Unexpected visitors occasionally show up and stay for a while, including some you'd really like to throw out!

Welcoming them and learning what they may have to teach you, or where they may lead you, isn't always easy. But in my experience, it always pays off — if for no other reason than it hastens the day of their departure!

"Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment."

Philosopher, historian, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht has traced how Western civilization has at times demonized those who commit suicide, at times celebrated it as a moral freedom. She proposes a reframed cultural conversation, based not on morality or rights but on our essential need for each other.

“None of us can truly know what we mean to other people and none of us can now what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles.

It's hard to think of someone so beloved as American educator and television personality Fred Rogers (1928–2003). From 1968 to 2001 he hosted the children's television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He was a lifelong advocate for the needs of children, even bringing his signature mix of clarity and compassion to the United States Senate when it was needed.

"I am who we are."

Anonymous

I heard this quoted at my nephews' charming elementary school in Castle Rock, Minnesota yesterday and have been turning the phrase in my mind ever since. Any immediate reflections come to mind as you ponder this saying?

When President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as “a day of thanksgiving and praise” for the nation, he did so in the midst of war, 1863. He asked people to thank God for “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”

For service members returning home from combat, PTSD diagnoses are commonplace and extensive. But one VA psychologist argues that the complications of PTSD compound to create a moral injury — one that requires a community, not a clinic, in order to heal.

A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about “our common calling to delight in one another.”

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