I love to watch the Dr. Phil show. Sometimes I even watch Oprah. An hour of observing and listening to the problems of other people leaves me happy and relieved. I’m OK! I’m not so bad! I’m certainly not as bad as those people! I can deal with my petty problems any day. Perhaps that’s the whole point. Perhaps we don’t really care if Dr. Phil solves their problems. We just want to know about them so we can compare them to our own and feel smug.
However, smugness flies out the window when those people are friends, neighbors, or co-workers. I have a relative who once who told me that what he did had no bearing on anyone else. He felt he was totally independent of other people. I’m not sure that’s physically possible unless you are totally without empathy. (I think there is a psychological term for that, and it’s not good.) The rest of us belong to circles of friends and relatives and acquaintances who are joined to other circles, who are part of other circles. One of my co-workers, who lives in another town, went to school with the sister of my son’s best friend. Think about that for a moment. I work an hour away from my school. She lives in yet another town. My son’s friend lives in another state. The interconnectedness of our lives is astounding if we really think about it. And I don’t think it is exclusive to my rural area. When the recent hurricanes devastated other areas of the country I was amazed by the number of people here who have friends and family in the disaster areas.
I was thinking about this today because of several things that happened this week. First, I received an email from someone who asked, “Are you Bob’s daughter? I went to school with him!” What a strange but wonderful thing it is to hear from someone in another state who knew your parents in high school. And she also mentioned how my grandfather had worked on their house.
Then someone I’ve been corresponding with for a community organization asked if I was the same person who was in a university publication from several years ago. I am, and she was in the same issue!
Then we had our fundraiser for the firemen on Monday night and the auctioneer was a former student of mine from 1981! They do grow up!
I’ve had a different perspective about my work and my life this week. I’ve paid more attention to the people around me. I’ve listened more closely. I’ve watched more intently. We’re all part of an ever-widening circle. And my life is a part of theirs.
I think one of the most important verses of the Bible is Genesis 2:18, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone;’” God knew we would grow because of our relationships with other people.
My relative was wrong. What we do matters to other people. Who we are and what we say matters to other people. When other people are even remotely connected to us we have greater sympathy for their problems. We’re more likely to help them. We’re more likely to understand them. Our lives have an impact on them today and tomorrow and ten years from now.
I hope you take some time today to notice the people around you and think about the impact you have on each other’s lives. It’s not good to be alone.