We need eachother.
Recently, I have been pondering elephants and other large scale mammals. Their gestation period (18-22 months), and the females ability to live within concentric circles of family is bewildering. For elephants, family represents the whole herd: immediate family, extended, girlfriends and their family. The herd celebrates birth together, mourns death together, travels together, eats together, and takes mud baths together ('Cornell University', 2003)!!! The sense of togetherness present within their daily lives is awe-inspiring.
This herd life, reminds me of a new American citizen (from the Congo) and his experience in small town America. He woke up his first, second, third, and even twentieth morning in the United States and walked outside to wish his neighbors good morning. He watched their garage doors roll up, cars back out, and head down the street. He waved feverishly inviting them into his world, but in their air-conditioned SUVs they never noticed him. His story brings me sadness. However, I am not sad for him; I am sad for us. How have we missed the core of our mammal existence? Where is our herd?
Tuesday I met with a group of 14 women to share an afternoon snack, stories, and prayer. It was my first ever meeting and women 30 to 80 something years old were present. Some of us could barely hear; some of us were loud and clear. Some of us had lost our husbands, and some of us were rearing young. A woman named Olivia introduced herself to me, and when she mentioned her last name, I smiled broadly. Her son, David, a former member of AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Task Group, was to be interviewed by my 16-year old daughter for her high school journalism class within the hour.
Later that night as my daughter and husband teamed up on dinner, and a friend drove in from the coast of North Carolina, I thought about how desperately we need each other. Olivia had much to teach me and David her son had much to teach my daughter. I had new experiences that inspired Olivia, and David saw the joy of peacemaking in the next generation. Our friend from the coast, nestled in the shelter of our home, as her husband battles Alzheimer's disease, and we learn from their combined life journey of adventure. As I laid my head down Tuesday night, I was filled with joy rather than sadness.
Today I think, again, of the herd of elephants and the concentric circles they live in. What joy they must have daily! What celebrations and laughter they must partake in! I then think of the divisions that are present in America today on every scale. From the senate floor, to the Church down the block, to the families living on the same street, the divisions that have infiltrated our daily lives are deeply doleful.
If ever I believed in hell, it would be this picture of division-- anger, fear, name-calling, and bitterness. I have no longer wanted to eat with friends because I hate their political views. I have felt the need to "unfriend" people, because their online banter is continually painful. This division is a kind of hell that none of us long to live. It is a civil war, holocaust, civil rights type of hell. Deeply divided we wound our neighbors and friends. Oh, to be an elephant!
So my challenge for this new day, is to not divide. I want to live as the early Christians (the real evangelicals) lived as Rome was falling into flames. May we be peacemakers. May we be good neighbors. May we remember that our herd (God's family) is concentric circles extending to the whole world.
"Forest Elephant Fact Sheet (Loxodonta cyclotis)" 2003 Elephant Listening Project, Cornell University