The Shelter of Each Other

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

-Irish Proverb

golden trees

(photo by me….and, shhhh..it’s a sunset, not a sunrise!!)

I love this proverb. We live in the shelter of each other. It is difficult some days to be aware of this and believe it to be true.

My mind has a million lines of thought about this…how it is uplifting and hopeful. How it is false and impossible. How our shared world requires us to be bound to one another, connected, interdependent. How it sometimes feels as if we are none of those things.

I DO live in the shelter of others. I live in the shelter of others on many levels. I live in the security of a strong community, nurturing friends, neighbors, co-workers, loving family. I live in the shelter of a community that shares a common bond of respect, tolerance, patience, understanding, conversation, dialogue, valuing education and personal growth. I live in the shelter of the dreams of my ancestors. I live in the shelter of the possibility of change and growth, of opportunity.

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

I also live in the shelter of circumstance and privilege and as such I feel I bear a responsibility to provide shelter for others. They don’t have to be like me, the same as me, hold the same beliefs, eat the same food, wear the same clothes or pray, or not pray, to the same God.

When we are sheltered we are taken care of, protected. When we are sheltered, we feel safe, or at least safer. When fear is diminished hope and possibility come out of hiding. We can plan, take action, dream, explore. Fear can be a great catalyst too, but it comes at a price: anger, reaction, separation, isolation,  intolerance. Often it is a reaction to a threat or to violence. We are more vulnerable.

When we are sheltered, physically, spiritually or emotionally, we are supported and uplifted. Mistakes become learning tools not a punitive sentence. Faltering becomes a point of concern and we begin to listen to discover what happened. We listen to the stories of others and hear what it is that is spoken from the heart. The stories don’t have to be the same as mine, or familiar to be true. Stumbling and floundering become stepping stones to a smoother path. The journey is as valuable as the destination.

When we are sheltered we feel we belong and are able to care for one another without thought of gain. Compassion flourishes and our effort is one of easing suffering, pain, want.

“To be human is to belong.
Belonging is a circle that embraces everything;
if we reject it, we damage our nature.
The word ‘belonging’ holds together the two fundamental aspects of life:
Being and Longing, the longing of our Being
and the being of our Longing.”
John O’Donohue

So often our tribal instincts, once so important for survival, click in and we want to isolate, protect, be fearful and cautious. Yet so much in our world now tells us we are all bound together by our humaness and even the boundaries of our living earth, rather than the arbitrary boundaries of our countries. As a global community we also find shelter in the firm grounding of the earth and gravity as we are hurling through space. We find shelter in sustainable and limited resources that are present. We find shelter through understanding, sympathy, shared experiences, universal stories, tolerance and acceptance. We find shelter as nurturers and builders of communities and family.

“The earth community, the Life Community is not the property
of any one religion or group or part of the world,
it is the Commons that embraces us all, our planetary home.
And it needs us as never before.
It calls us to become, not heroes, but community builders, builders of home,
gatherers and embracers, bearers of hospitality,
keepers of the shared space that cultures us all.
It calls us not to go forth and come back laden with honors
but to honor where we are, who we are,
and from that place to reach out
and connect to and honor each other in the community of life.”

David Spangler

Spangler also wrote:

“To embody a new paradigm of civilization-
to learn to think like a planet in order to nurture a planet-
it is not a hero’s task…it is more the task of a gardener.
The planet does not offer us the challenges
to be overcome to prove the worth of our individuality,
it presents us with a community to understand,
a community with disparate needs and identities
that are nonetheless intertwined in mutual dependencies.”

We live in the shelter of each other on this planet. Our culturally distinct and sometimes contrary needs and beliefs, dreams and desires do not mean we are not bound to one another with universal similarities by way of love, compassion, fundamental needs, respect, spiritual longing, familial bonding and community fellowship and support.

“It is in the shelter of each other that people live.”

If it is true that we do live in the shelter of each other, and we do not offer shelter to one another, where does that leave us?

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