The last couple of weeks have been quite a struggle as we have learned to live with the snow, ice and cold. It has been a particularly challenging time for the sick, the elderly and the housebound, as well as for those who have to travel in the course of their work. Mercifully, however, the electricity supply hasn’t been too affected and supplies of oil and gas have been sustained.
As ever, when the normality of life is interrupted, there have been many stories of neighbourliness, care and support within communities, with much to celebrate about the way in which we can and do care for each other when the ‘chips are down’. I have cause to be grateful to two strangers who came to my rescue when my car became stuck on ice trying to get up a slight incline. I had been getting nowhere for about 15 minutes when my helpers came and pushed me onto firmer ground – I really did wish them many blessings for their kindness.
Awareness of those who live around us increases at times such as we have experienced recently. The sad thing is that such awareness of each other seems to run against the way in which our society is going. Independence is seen to be a virtue and much of life is directed towards enabling us to be ‘entire unto ourselves’. Yet such independence is a very modern feature to life and runs contrary to human history where we have worked together in communities. There is actually very little evidence that independence makes us happier – in fact it seems to feed a ‘therapy culture’.
Independent living sounds attractive and is a good slogan until the snow comes, or the normality of life is interrupted for whatever reason – then family, friends and neighbours become essential features to our survival. What price independence in the face of an earthquake such has been experienced in Haiti?
Of course true community is really built upon ‘faith’ – believing in and trusting in others. One of the great challenges of our age is to recover that sense of faith within our communities, so that we can work together not just in the exceptional times of need, but in the normality of the everyday. Faith is a casualty of excessive independence, for faith is rooted in the humility of accepting that we cannot make it through life on our own. Without faith in others, how will we cope when the cold realities of life break through the illusion that we can ever be independent?