One interpretation of the central concept of his teachings sounds like this: In some ways, because of our delightfully contradictory experience of humanity, we are simultaneously enacting different portions of one massive, interconnected divine experience. Despite all of the divisions we create that are focused on race, religion, political affiliation, levels of ability and the like, we generally go into a room that contains dozens of others, and despite the fact that we are standing shoulder to shoulder, we allow others the illusion that their fragile envelope of privacy remains unviolated. This can be an enactment of graciousness, in which we occupy the same space and allow others to have their heartbreak and elation; their pain and the worst news of all time--and we fully allow the pretense that, inches away from one another, we are neither seen nor heard. Sometimes this grace is protective, so that we are not required to intervene in other people's tiny disasters.
At other times, when disaster strikes, we rip away the veil of pretense and fully swoop in to save each other from imminent disaster. We also sometimes gift in the opposite direction. When disaster strikes, we suddenly make one another visible again, just long enough to set each other right, and then we go back to pretending that our space is not the same space; that time and distance offer separation and relief from the intimate experience.
What a gift we give one another; or make that a series of gifts. We offer the gifts of privacy and anonymity. We offer the gifts of visibility and being known. We offer the gifts of assistance. We offer the gift of hope: that we need not remain how or where we are when we began.
I don't talk about this much, but I was raised in a very small town in the South. Most of my neighbors were related to me in one way or another, usually in a circuitous manner that required quite a bit of patience to untangle. (I was often just grateful if we could get past the halfway mark in the story without the speaker having a sudden realization about his or her parents being insufficiently distant on their family trees, or tree, singular.) Because of this intertwined community, I learned the value of neighborly behavior. Sure, you might have to lower your voice and make sure your windows were closed if you wanted to keep your night special, but you could also borrow a cup of sugar from anyone in a five-mile radius, or stop on any porch to get patched up with Band-Aids and a little isopropryl alcohol if you fell off your bike. (Frankly, I have always had a special relationship with gravity. I developed many, many baffling and creative injuries. Everyone was ready for me.) Being surrounded by family was simultaneously suffocating and intensely gratifying. Our togetherness wasn't quite a shield from the world, but in retrospect, it was a rich shelter that potentiated many types of introspection.
In the spirit of neighborly action, I encourage you to visit a new page on this website, in which we explore ways to enact our neighborly assistance. Here is the page, titled Help Your Neighbor. There are several opportunities to become more involved in your world communities. For the first time, I noted that a number of the agencies offer a way to volunteer from afar. That option may be best suited to those of us who struggle to feel comfortable out and about in the world.
Finally, I want to share with you the footage of Mr. Rogers receiving an Emmy award in 1997. I did not know that he had done so; as a matter of fact, I have only just learned several remarkable things about this humble, loving man. I will freely admit that I cried all the way through his speech. Prepare yourself.
You are part of the world community. You are special, unique and irreplaceable. Your contributions have value beyond measure. As you are able, rise (physically, metaphorically or both) and hie thee to a place to find your tribe.
Remember, there are many, many ways to Help Your Neighbor. We are one spirit, formed of the same ocean of possibilities; so sometimes your neighbor is across the ocean, sometimes your neighbor is on the next block...or sometimes your neighbor is you.
Sending love, and wishing you well.