“Rain does not fall on one roof alone” (Cameroonian Proverb).
WE ENJOY FEW BENEFITS IN LIFE THAT ARE NOT SHARED BENEFITS. “No man is an island,” as John Donne put it, and whatever we enjoy, we enjoy as joint recipients of these things. We may not be aware of or acknowledge our connectedness to others, and even if we do, we may not value it as we should. But our connections are there nonetheless. We are, at the very least, members of the human community, and most of us are members of some smaller communities as well. Rain does not fall on one roof alone.
From time to time, a spirit of radical independence and individualism sweeps over our society. It becomes the “in” thing to turn inward and worship at the altar of self-fulfillment. And frankly, the conditions of modern living tend to push us in that direction. Life these days, particularly urban life, keeps us so busy with activities in our own cubicle that we have little time to deal with any more than a few relationships with others. Not only that, but fear often drives us indoors, and we bar the doors against dangerous neighbors.
Granted, it would be wrong to go to the opposite extreme and give up our individual identity, as if we were no more than cogs in some large, impersonal wheel. There is a wonderful variety in human beings, and we ought to be grateful for our own uniqueness. But our personal uniqueness was meant to be expressed within the context of relationships. We are beings who thrive in community with others, and it would often help us to pay more attention to that fact.
Like it or not, we are linked to those around us. But wouldn’t it be better to like that fact rather than not like it? There is something very gratifying about the concept of community. When we see ourselves as parts of something greater than we are, that’s a perspective that’s as encouraging as it is humbling. Life does not revolve around us — we are the ones who were meant to do the revolving! And when we do that rightly, we do it with gratitude for all the others who, with us, make up the constellation of the world’s communities. We can’t live in the world without touching others and being touched by them. The challenge is to appreciate what those touches have done for us.
“I am a part of all that I have met” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson).