When I was diagnosed with depression last winter, I found a 7-step program to overcome it. One of the steps was to get out and commune with nature every day. So I’ve been parading around our yard, enjoying all the wildflowers and everything else popping up all around. We have everything from irises to lupines to a giant hosta, plus woods with maples, pines, oaks, and all manner of trees. Lots of stuff growing out there, varied and beautiful.
It occurred to me that my Facebook friends are another kind of garden, just as varied as the life brought forth from the earth on the property around our house. Variety? Heck, yes! Just perusing over my list of friends, I see all kinds of religions - Episcopal, Unitarian, United Methodist, Congregational, Church of Christ, Baptist, Catholic, and assorted other nondenominational Christians. Some of you are agnostics and atheists. My friends run the gamut of Republican, Democrat, Independents, and those who couldn’t care less about politics. Some of you hate Obama and some of you adore Obama. You may be vegans, vegetarians, or carnivores. I have fitness-oriented friends and couch potatoes. I have optimists and pessimists. I have friends in their 90s and friends that are still teenagers. I have gay friends, married and single. I have straight friends who are married and single, some widowed, some divorced. I have Southerners and Yankees and transplants. Some of you are teachers, medical field workers, musicians, animal activists, gay activists, a children’s chorus director, airplane pilots, landlords, a riverboat captain, a librarian, a hairdresser, farmers, some small business owners, and many more who represent assorted other careers. How do I know all these people? Some of you friends I met through quilting, through medical transcription, or through music. Some of you are or have been my co-workers. Some of you were classmates from high school, or friends from churches, both ones we attended and ones we pastored. Two of you are my former teachers. Some of you are neighbors from decades ago in Tennessee, others are neighbors from just a few years ago in Ellsworth, Maine, and some of you are neighbors living in our current neighborhood. Some of you I got to know because our kids grew up together, and some of you are friends of our kids who grew up to become our own friends! Some of you are people I have known all my life, and some of you I have actually never met in person. Of course, some of you are just members of my crazy, beloved family.
Now look again at that extensive list. What are the chances we all agree on everything? Nil. What are the chances I care deeply about each and every Facebook friend? 100%. I am so honored to share in your birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. I am so honored to grieve with you in your losses of loved ones, pets as well as humans. I am so honored to watch your kids and grandkids come into this world, grow up, and I cheer with you their successes in a variety of fields. I travel vicariously on your vacations. I sympathize with (or envy) your weather. I love your pet pictures and stories. I am awash in memories of how you people have contributed to my life. Some of you have taught me, some have challenged me. Some have inspired me, some have made me - yes - laugh out loud! Some have passions for ideas I do not share. Some of you are rejoicing over things happening in our country, and others of you are fearful and despondent about what is happening. Like my yard, my Facebook friend garden is full and varied. It is a garden of HUMAN BEINGS in all of their humanness, failures, triumphs, love, and fear. Certainly we don’t think alike. Certainly our experiences have led some of us to different conclusions and beliefs from others. Certainly we grew up in different environments and were taught different things. I have, I’m sure, something (if I wish to concentrate on the negative) to separate me from each of you. I also, however, have something in common with each of you - and that is what I choose to concentrate on. I care about you all. I care about what is going on in your lives, your struggles, your challenges. I want you to find the happiness you all deserve. The major thing we have in common? We want the best for each other, even if we disagree with how best to effect that.
I am not advocating we abandon our passions. I am not suggesting it would be better if we each gave up our beliefs and integrity to just blend in. I am suggesting we all treat each other with respect and dignity, not pass around unsubstantiated rumors, not demonize those “on the other side,” and to remember the complexity of that which we call life. We are required to live our own lives in accordance with our own personal beliefs, yet simultaneously respect those with whom we disagree.
I will end with my dad’s favorite poem by Edwin Markham:
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!"