“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” (John Donne).
WE ARE “FELLOWS” WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHEN OUR LIVES OVERLAP THEIRS IN SOME WAY. If, for example, two people are both physicians, then they have “fellowship” in that profession. That which they have in common — in this case, their vocation — creates a comradeship, a sharing of interests, ideals, and experiences.
Obviously, there are many different areas in which our lives overlap the lives of others. We may be in the same physical family or live in the same community. We may share a recreational interest or a philanthropic cause. We may have a common spirituality, ethnicity, or nationality. In each of our lives, there are innumerable points at which similar characteristics create bonds of fellowship with others. The largest of these, of course, is that we’re all members of the human race.
The challenge is to cherish our various fellowships in ways that are wise. And in the fellowships that involve joint activity or collaboration, the challenge is to participate constructively. Serious differences may have to be dealt with, but even in the act of working through these, we can remember the things we have in common, realizing that these things often outweigh the things about which we differ.
At the deepest level, we show appreciation for fellowship when we serve our fellows. And ultimately, we must be ready to serve any of our fellow human beings, not just the nice ones who are in our same social niche and are easy to serve. As Aldous Huxley pointed out, “A man may have strong humanitarian and democratic principles; but if he happens to have been brought up as a bath-taking, shirt-changing lover of fresh air, he will have to overcome certain physical repugnancies before he can bring himself to put those principles into practice.”
Too often, our high-sounding talk about fellowship in the human race is just talk, mostly about people we’ve never met. But what would those who are closest to us, the ones we actually come in contact with, say? Is our fellowship with them what it ought to be? Think about it.
“A low capacity for getting along with those near us often goes hand in hand with a high receptivity to the idea of the brotherhood of man” (Eric Hoffer).