One of our favorite family vacations has been to a place called St. George Island. It is a small island, a couple of miles off the coast of the Florida panhandle, connected by a long bridge that comes ashore near the small town of Apalachicola. St. George Island is a quiet place full of small homes that face the beach or the bay, most of which are vacation rentals. There are small, independent restaurants as well. It is a place my parents used to visit, and our family was there once, a couple of years ago.
Today, St. George Island is deeply into recovery. It wasn’t where the worst of Hurricane Michael came ashore, but it is close. The power is still out there, and the recovery and reconstruction efforts have begun.
I find myself looking at the island residents’ Facebook page regularly, to see photos of the destruction and to read updates. I am a bit surprised at how connected I feel to a place that I’ve only visited once. Perhaps it’s because of the beauty of the island…or the kindness of the people who live and work there. Maybe it’s because my parents spent a few winters there. I’m not really sure.
But I do feel connected there.
It makes me wonder about how and when we feel connected to each other. And it makes me a bit concerned about the state of our nation and our communities. It feels to me like some of our connectedness is breaking down. It has become so easy for us to find ways to divide ourselves. We divide ourselves politically, racially, ethnically, economically, religiously…the list goes on.
Having different groups isn’t by itself a bad thing. Not at all. But when our divisions begin to overpower those things that unite us, and we begin to define ourselves by our differences; when we become polarized, then I think it becomes a problem. This is not God’s vision for the world.
I think one of the reasons I feel connected to St. George Island and its people is because of the experience I had in that place. I spent time there and got a glimpse into the lives of the people.
If we all shared more experiences with each other, I wonder if it would as easy for us to divide and polarize. If we spent time with people with whom we disagreed…if we caught a glimpse into their lives…if we built relationships…I can’t help but think that our connectedness would be stronger than those things that divide us.
God calls us to maintain our sense of connectedness. We can agree to disagree; we can discuss; we can even on occasion argue; that is how a society moves forward. But let’s give each other the gift of time, of experience and of relationship. Let’s remember that we are drawn together by the things in our faith that we share, by our nation, our community and our common humanity.
Even in these days of division, let’s be an example of how a community can maintain its sense of connection.