Contagious Connections

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Contagious Connections

January 3, 2018

My last post was all about my love of Christmas. And every word in that post is true. This Christmas has been filled with all the things I love, ushering in the joy characteristic of the holiday. But this season also brought moments of great sadness.

The daughter of a colleague was critically injured in a serious car accident. A few days later, her husband suddenly passed away.

Two former students remain in intensive care after being severely burned in an accidental fire.

On December 14, a friend passed away from cancer.

And on Christmas night, a colleague of 11 years passed away in her sleep.

And so in the midst of great joy, there were tender moments of sadness. Rather than marring the holiday season, the pain I feel reminds me of the very real connections we have with each other.

This theme of connection has deep roots in our culture.

In 1624, John Donne penned words for a sermon that were later reprinted as the famous poem, “No Man Is an Island”. The poem begins as follows:

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

Donne asserts that we are all connected to one another, much like the pieces of a puzzle. And just as each puzzle piece must be in its proper place to form the complete picture, we are mutually reliant on one another as we journey through life.

More than three centuries later, Paul Simon wrote the song, “I Am a Rock”. This song describes the very real pain created from a broken connection.

The song concludes:

I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Interestingly, this song was written in 1965, over 50 years ago. Yet there are internet chats that still discuss it. In the comments, some make references to Donne’s poem and the obvious conflicting point of view.

I believe the idea of human connection strikes a chord with so many because it is part of God’s plan for us.

God intended for us to be part of a community. Numerous “one another” scriptures define the kind of relationships God created for us to have. But when we stray from God’s commands, our connections become broken and painful.

So many of us can relate to the pain expressed in Paul Simon’s song. And although it is understandable to build protection walls when we have been hurt, it is not healthy to do so.

Tragically, we have seen what can happen when there is an absence of human connection.

I lived in Colorado in 1999 at the time of the first mass shooting at Columbine High School. I now live outside of Las Vegas where we recently experienced the worst mass shooting in US history. I wish these were isolated incidents. Unfortunately, they happen far too often.

I have noticed a common thread in these tragic events. All the shooters exhibited some type of antisocial behavior prior to committing their murders. In other words, there was a lack of deep, human connection in their lives. And for whatever reason, the pain they felt from the lack of connection caused them to take actions that have devastating effects on others, making the world, at times, very dark.

As Christians we are called to be the light of the world. At times this can feel so daunting. How do we bring light to a world that can seem to grow darker every day?

I am reminded of a story I heard years ago. A father had taken work home with him, but his young son wanted his attention. To buy some time, the father tore a picture of a world map out of a magazine. Cutting it into several pieces, he handed the pieces to his son. “When you have put this puzzle together,” the father told him, “I will be able to play with you.” Confident that his son would not know how to place the continents, oceans or the countries on the map, the father returned to his work.

Within minutes, the son was back. He had taped the pieces together and had perfectly recreated the world map. Stunned, the father asked his son how he had done it so quickly. “It was easy Dad,” his son replied as he turned over the magazine page to reveal a picture of a man on the other side. “I knew if I got the man right, I would get the world right too.”

The answer is simple, although counterintuitive. To get the world right, we first need to get people right.

I believe the key is found in genuine connection with others. A genuine connection moves beyond the superficial and is formed when hearts are open and souls are bared. And connections like these start with me…with us.

So my new year’s goal for 2018 is centered around connection.

As I continue down the road of life, I want to walk in the way of love as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:2. For me, this means building and nurturing genuine connections with the people God places in my path.

In some ways, this seems an insignificant cure for the world. I wonder what impact can I possibly have?

When I was elementary school, a teacher shared the words of Edward Everett Hale with my class. They seem so fitting here:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

So I am committing to fostering these connections as I travel down the road. My prayer is that others, like yourself, will join me. And as more people join us, these connections will become… contagious.

And just as puzzle pieces fall into place and create a complete picture, our contagious connections will work together to usher in a lighter and brighter world.

Contagious Connections

January 3, 2018

IMG_0293

My last post was all about my love of Christmas. And every word in that post is true. This Christmas has been filled with all the things I love, ushering in the joy characteristic of the holiday. But this season also brought moments of great sadness.

The daughter of a colleague was critically injured in a serious car accident. A few days later, her husband suddenly passed away.

Two former students remain in intensive care after being severely burned in an accidental fire.

On December 14, a friend passed away from cancer.

And on Christmas night, a colleague of 11 years passed away in her sleep.

And so in the midst of great joy, there were tender moments of sadness. Rather than marring the holiday season, the pain I feel reminds me of the very real connections we have with each other.

This theme of connection has deep roots in our culture.

In 1624, John Donne penned words for a sermon that were later reprinted as the famous poem, “No Man Is an Island”. The poem begins as follows:

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.

Donne asserts that we are all connected to one another, much like the pieces of a puzzle. And just as each puzzle piece must be in its proper place to form the complete picture, we are mutually reliant on one another as we journey through life.

More than three centuries later, Paul Simon wrote the song, “I Am a Rock”. This song describes the very real pain created from a broken connection.

The song concludes:

I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Interestingly, this song was written in 1965, over 50 years ago. Yet there are internet chats that still discuss it. In the comments, some make references to Donne’s poem and the obvious conflicting point of view.

I believe the idea of human connection strikes a chord with so many because it is part of God’s plan for us.

God intended for us to be part of a community. Numerous “one another” scriptures define the kind of relationships God created for us to have. But when we stray from God’s commands, our connections become broken and painful.

So many of us can relate to the pain expressed in Paul Simon’s song. And although it is understandable to build protection walls when we have been hurt, it is not healthy to do so.

Tragically, we have seen what can happen when there is an absence of human connection.

I lived in Colorado in 1999 at the time of the first mass shooting at Columbine High School. I now live outside of Las Vegas where we recently experienced the worst mass shooting in US history. I wish these were isolated incidents. Unfortunately, they happen far too often.

I have noticed a common thread in these tragic events. All the shooters exhibited some type of antisocial behavior prior to committing their murders. In other words, there was a lack of deep, human connection in their lives. And for whatever reason, the pain they felt from the lack of connection caused them to take actions that have devastating effects on others, making the world, at times, very dark.

As Christians we are called to be the light of the world. At times this can feel so daunting. How do we bring light to a world that can seem to grow darker every day?

I am reminded of a story I heard years ago. A father had taken work home with him, but his young son wanted his attention. To buy some time, the father tore a picture of a world map out of a magazine. Cutting it into several pieces, he handed the pieces to his son. “When you have put this puzzle together,” the father told him, “I will be able to play with you.” Confident that his son would not know how to place the continents, oceans or the countries on the map, the father returned to his work.

Within minutes, the son was back. He had taped the pieces together and had perfectly recreated the world map. Stunned, the father asked his son how he had done it so quickly. “It was easy Dad,” his son replied as he turned over the magazine page to reveal a picture of a man on the other side. “I knew if I got the man right, I would get the world right too.”

The answer is simple, although counterintuitive. To get the world right, we first need to get people right.

I believe the key is found in genuine connection with others. A genuine connection moves beyond the superficial and is formed when hearts are open and souls are bared. And connections like these start with me…with us.

So my new year’s goal for 2018 is centered around connection.

As I continue down the road of life, I want to walk in the way of love as we are commanded in Ephesians 5:2. For me, this means building and nurturing genuine connections with the people God places in my path.

In some ways, this seems an insignificant cure for the world. I wonder what impact can I possibly have?

When I was elementary school, a teacher shared the words of Edward Everett Hale with my class. They seem so fitting here:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.

So I am committing to fostering these connections as I travel down the road. My prayer is that others, like yourself, will join me. And as more people join us, these connections will become… contagious.

And just as puzzle pieces fall into place and create a complete picture, our contagious connections will work together to usher in a lighter and brighter world.

6 Comments

  1. Beth Barber on January 3, 2018 at 12:42 AM

    “In order to get the world right, we first need to get people right.” How true. Very profound post Shirley, it has left me with much to think about. Blessings on your New Year!! Beth Barber

    • Shirley Jackson on January 3, 2018 at 1:48 AM

      Thank you so much Beth! I appreciate your feedback and encouragement.

  2. Jody R on January 3, 2018 at 1:01 PM

    “Happy New Year, my friend”! You are such an amazing communicator!! This post is so deep and thoughtful, as are you. The goal to “walk in love” and connect will indeed make this a brighter year. I am honored to walk along this journey with you.

    • Shirley Jackson on January 4, 2018 at 3:25 AM

      Thank you so much Jody! I am so grateful for your friendship!

  3. Stephanie on January 20, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    I love this Ms. Shirley! Keep going!

    • Shirley Jackson on January 20, 2018 at 10:45 AM

      Thank you Stephanie! I appreciate your feedback!

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