During the Christmas holiday period in 2019, I traveled to Singapore to visit my daughter and family. It was clear they were so pleased to see my wife and me, and within a few days, it was like we had not been separated for so many months. The wonder of a family reunion is hard to explain, but more easily understood by rekindling the feeling of connection and belonging to each other.
Singapore is a small island with the third-highest density of population on the planet. Around 18,500 souls per square miles for those of you interested in statistics. As I look out from the 16th floor of my daughter’s apartment, I see thousands of homes lit up each evening. It is easy to imagine interactions within, just as we are sharing Christmas together with my own family.
The comings and goings of those leaving and returning create a continuous procession of souls in and out of the building. Taxis cause the security gate to open and close, waving families in and out of the building to continue meeting busy schedules that dominate life in this city.
In using the MRT, the Singapore Metro system, I was shocked by the continuous “checking out” of those using it. On a trip here, I noted only two of the one-hundred-plus fellow commuters were NOT using their phone. I was one of them. It was as if those traveling were somewhere with their cell phones, and not aware of their location, or what they were doing, (traveling somewhere). This transposition of presence created a feeling of unbelonging which is hard to describe.. Almost as if I was not traveling with all the others, yet I was performing this precise action. Strange indeed.
Don’t you find it disturbing how you can be the middle of hundreds or even thousands of people as still feel like you are alone? For me, on the subway that day, I had the feeling of wanting to connect with all those people, or at least exchange a smile or greeting, but was prevented by the “closed door” facing me. In this case individuals using their cell phones to connect to “another time and place” from their current location and action. Perhaps an unknowing or unintended intention.
Do you ever get that feeling of unbelonging, even when you may be in the presence of many people? How does that make you feel?
God has placed This desire to be connected to others is present in us all; a need to communicate, to relate, to love each other in some tangible way.
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Jn 13:34
Sometimes, just a simple smile or greeting can change our relationship with another. Not that we all have to go around smiling like a crazy person at everyone we meet or glad-handing complete strangers. However, when we are open, others open up too.
This week, perhaps we can open up to someone who we have been ignoring (maybe with good cause), and it may change a relationship. Try it and see. Don’t hide behind our own busyness and keep others at bay. Remember we are all one Body in Christ.
Separation is both a feeling and a reality.
One begets the other, like a child of our making.
Yet still, feelings can be changed,
Where I am separate,
When I feel alone,
When I am Far Away,
Bring Me Home.
To your loving arms,
And teach me to use mine in the same way.