When do you most feel separated or isolated from others? Where do you experience distance? We as humans intentionally and unconsciously sift and sort and separate people into categories. Lump them together in classes. Pigeonhole persons. Draw dividing lines. Maybe it's on the basis of employment. Or bloodlines. Or political persuasions. Or simply on appearance. We do it and we know it.
All that sifting and sorting and separating can create gaps. Like a tear in the fabric of community, divisions keep us from knowing the strength and peace that is possible through acceptance and unity. Do you see and feel gaps in your neighborhood? Your family? Our country? In the faith communities and houses of worship around you?
An expression surfaced a number of years ago: minding the gap. It is the title of a documentary. It is a phrase I have heard Quaker social activist and teacher Parker Palmer use, along with a companion phrase: standing in the gap. It essentially means to pay attention to the potential for division among us. And don't foster it. Bridge it. Heal it. Palmer even uses the concept of a gap to address the separation that happens within us. A divided self is not whole, he asserts. He sees one of the greatest challenges for human beings to be a disconnect between who we are internally and how we live externally, especially manifest in what roles we take on. In seeking to mend the rift between "soul and role" (his words), Palmer suggests that "the quick-fix mentality that dominates our impatient world serves only to distract us from the lifelong journey toward wholeness. And the self-help methods so popular in our time, the best of which offer us support for that journey, sometimes reinforce the great American illusion that we can forever go it alone... but because we are communal creatures who need each other's support, community is essential to rejoining soul and role." (A Hidden Wholeness, 2004).
Minding and mending the gaps in our world is sacred work. Standing in and stitching up the divisions around and within us is an essential calling. But it takes courage, and it takes a village. Be part by not being apart from the humanity we all share!