InCourage, a Christian web site for women, has just published their first book, "Craving Connections". Several authors have shared their own stories surrounding our need to be connected. I'm thinking I will be reading this book, since my "word" for 2017 is Belonging/Connections.
While thinking about the word belonging, I have been reflecting back on a time in my life when I was going to college to be an interpreter for the deaf (in a medical setting). Part of our requirements was service to others, and I volunteered to visit a high rise nursing home in Minneapolis. Through my instructor I connected there with a woman who was both blind and deaf. I communicated with her by finger spelling with American Sign Language into the palm of her hand. She could talk to me since she had not gone deaf until she was a teenager. Helen loved to "hear" from me what was going on in the world and would often ask me to sign summaries of articles out of news magazines or the newspaper. I was sent to help her, but she blessed my life richly. I also visited with a woman who was bedridden and confined to a dark room. I could only stay briefly and talk quietly to her. She was once a missionary and had gotten ill on the mission field. They both stood firm in their faith in very challenging circumstances, and with grace opened their lives to a stranger because of their need for connection with others.
On Christmas Day that year, our family went to church in downtown Minneapolis before heading to a family Christmas gathering. At the end of the service the pastor asked for volunteers to deliver poinsettias to members in the same nursing home where I volunteered, so we picked up a few of the plants and headed over to deliver them.
This decision greatly impacted our family. So many people on floor after floor of the high rise...their loneliness palpable. I'm sure many had family coming to visit, but what we noticed is that people were hungry for connection that day. After going into the dining room to deliver one poinsettia, we had a difficult time leaving. Our family of 7 plus one ~ my mom~ were quite the "hit" during our brief visit. At that time, I had never seen so many people who needed to connect with others. Not just desired....but needed. Of course our kids were the attention grabber! Who doesn't love kids!?!
When we lived in the Philippines we noticed that in most cases several generations lived together in the same small house or a Nipa hut. They respected the elderly and cared for them. I'm sure this was partly out of necessity, but it was also cultural. The elderly stayed connected all their lives with their family, as the central figures within. No strangers needed to provide companionship and connection.
We were created for connection......with God and others. The new InCourage book "Craving Connection" states, "We all long for meaningful relationships, the Colossians 3:14 kind that fulfill our desire for unity and connection with God, our friends, and our community. " Kris Vallotton, pastor at Bethel Church in CA calls this search for meaningful relationships, the need to "find your tribe".
This need for connection is rooted in the core of our souls. It was obvious to us that Christmas morning when we walked the halls of the nursing home and it is still obvious today. Our world is more connected than ever through social media..........but also more lonely. How does that compute?
We have a deep ingrained need to belong and to connect. God is waiting................and so, too, is our tribe.
"Above all, clothes yourselves with love,
which binds us all together in unity."