This weekend, I talked with my sister-in-law Karen, about her trip to Scotland. She reminded me of many places that I had seen in Scotland. One of the most interesting memories was visiting an old Scottish chapel high on the North Sea coast surrounded by fields. This chapel was so old that it only had part of the roof and two walls to keep it together. There was a beautiful window that did look out on the sea. What I remember the most was the old cemetery. To walk into the cemetery one had to go through a cattle gate or a gate that had two turns in it to keep the sheep out. Once in the cemetery one could wander through 12 inch tall grass to see the old monuments. Most of them were very simple. One in particular caught my eye. It was newer than the rest and could be read easily as it was not as worn as others.
This one was inscribed “in memory of our daughter gone but not forgotten ,she traveled to America and has not been heard of since”. The idea of never seeing a child again after she left her homeland was sad but inspired me to think of all of the people who left their lands to come to America. How many of us have tales of immigrants in our families? In my own family, I have tales of relatives and ancestors coming from Scotland to Canada and England to America. My husband’s family has tales of his grandparents both coming from Poland to this country for new opportunities.
These tales are woven into our family history. As I think of what is happening now in our world I am reminded that these people are also looking for a better life, what do we do now in our world, to make life better for ourselves and for each other? Those immigrants built communities to help each other, what are we doing to help people who are new to our community. We may think there are more differences now than in the past. In reality we are all humans and all have similar needs and wants. Do we look for what is similar or do we emphasize the differences in each other. I am glad that my grandparents were able to make the leap from the old world to the new. Can we make the leap from our old ideas of family and community to encompass more of the world. I find I have an easier time ignoring some of these physical differences because of visual impairment. But we all have our prejudices and instead of emphasizing differences, I would suggest that we look for similarities in those that we meet. How do we greet new people in our community? Do we ignore them, do we assist them in finding things or do we angrily turn against them? Building community can be messy, but building walls can be more harmful.
When I was in high school, my choir sang a song,”No Man is an Island,” by John Dunn. It was a part of a meditation series. Other writers have used the metaphor of human interactions building bridges to each others. Below are the words that I remember:
“No man is an island. No man stands alone.
Each man’s are dreams for me.
Each man’s life is my own.
We need one another, so I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.”
John Dunn, 1955
October 3, 2022