On Tuesday of last week, between pilates maneuvers, we swapped stories about natural disasters.
I recalled one bad tornado of my childhood. Only one neighbor had a basement, so several families gathered there to ride out the storm. I remember feeling excited – all my friends were there, playing games. Only the parent seemed nervous. I secretly wished for more tornadoes.
I’ve tried to explain this before, but it always sounds odd to my ears. Does anyone understand what I mean? Do I sound like a crazy fool bent on destruction?
On Wednesday I caught my breath as I read these words:
The sheer predictability of life in an American suburb left me hoping – somewhat irresponsibly – for a hurricane or tornado or something that would require us to all band together to survive. Something that would make us feel like a tribe. What I wanted wasn’t destruction and mayhem but the opposite: solidarity.
… for many people – war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.
-Sebastian Junger, TRIBE, xiv, xvii
My first experiences with this seemingly odd solidarity were family funerals. Gathered with folks I didn’t see on a regular basis, eating wonderful food, sharing stories, and even laughing, I felt comforted, happy, and loved. I would wonder why we didn’t do this more often and then catch myself. Oh, right. Somebody died.
I continued to feel this internal conflict over the years:
Watching cliques break open and grieve together after the death of a high school classmate.
Observing the outpouring of love and camaraderie after 9/11. The beauty was almost too much to bear; it seemed our hearts couldn’t contain it.
Passing the hours in the brightly decorated hospital room, where my young friend recovered from transplants for a leukemia relapse. I saw her in her darkest, bleakest hours, but I remember the time as full of laughs, prayers, family, friends, Andy Griffith, and even a visit from Jeff Foxworthy.
Waiting with loved ones, old and new, as a surgeon operated on the heart of my friend’s days-old daughter. Praying together, believing together. Seeing miracles together.
By looking at the problem of how we treat veterans, Junger takes the bold stance that we are not made to do life alone. Even the most introverted among us need people. We need to love and be loved. We need to experience all of life’s feelings together. We need not always be together, not suffocatingly so, but all humans need other humans.
Every technology grants us the opportunity for good or evil. Certainly, the internet has given us much for which to be thankful. Unfortunately, it can also drive us inward. We can have 1000 online friends and none in the flesh. Everything we need can be ordered or summoned at the touch of a button, eliminating almost all human contact. But… is this what we really need?
I don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either. So, here’s what I suggest. In the next week, strive to connect to other people. In real life. Make it your mission to show love, kindness, appreciation, and genuine concern for the people you see each day – the familiar and the strangers. Look for opportunities and they will reveal themselves to you. I promise.
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis mine)
“Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:13-15, emphasis mine)
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-year-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.