“Fire and swords are slow engines of destruction, compared to the tongue of a Gossip.” ~ Richard Steele
There is a well known kabbalistic story of a gossipmonger. He spread all kinds of stories about town, and when it finally blew up in his face, he sought out forgiveness from the man he slandered. Upon asking for forgiveness the man he had slandered replied, “I will forgive you but there is one thing you will need to do. Go to the top of that roof with a pillow filled with feathers, open it up and shake it… letting the feathers fly everywhere.”
The gossipmonger was surprised, “That’s it?”
“One more thing. After you’ve done that make your way down and pick up all the feathers.”
“Impossible!” He retorted.
“Exactly. Words once spoken can’t be taken back. Watch your mouth. Better yet, hold your tongue.”
Unity is the harmony that exists within and among individuals in a group. It is built from a shared goal, hope or vision. Community creates a strong sense of belonging. When we are united it increases an overall sense of well being where everyone is respected and valued.
Take an orchestra for instance; there are many unique instruments, which contribute to the overall musical harmony of a symphony – strings, the brass instruments, percussion… each and every one makes an indelible mark on the overall sound of a musical score. Or even a soccer team where each and every player has a certain position to which they are best suited, providing the best overall team effort. Each and every player is equally as vital and beneficial as the next.
What would the symphony sound like without the percussion—the beat and rhythm of the drums? Have you ever wondered? It would be about as damaging to the piece as it would to a soccer team without a goalie. Perhaps not as evident (there is no point system in music), but its absence would be noticeable. The music would have no rhythm, no beat, no structure; it would be lacking.
Community is not solely reserved for sports teams, orchestra, bands or religious sects. Community is what we are all a part of—our humanity—we all add up to the sum of our parts and we share a responsibility to each other and for making the world a better place, regardless of the G-d we pray to or the things we believe in. It is of the utmost importance that we understand how truly important community is, and in order to promote and continue a sense of unity and community, we need to appreciate and accept each person’s unique and vital contribution.
You’ve heard the saying “you’re only as strong as your weakest link”, right? A saying which means “The more we stand together, the stronger and mightier we actually are. The more divided we become, the less strength we have”. It holds true in so many regards. When I was doing some research on community, I stumbled across some really interesting information about Elephants.
Did you know that elephants have a very strong sense of unity among the herd? Elephants are in fact very similar to humans; they live for 70 to 80 years and they love their children very much. They will do whatever it takes to protect them from harm. In fact, if a herd of elephants is threatened in the dense, green jungles of Asia or the mighty, golden plains of the Savannah by either a tiger or a lion, did you know that the older elephants will form a protective ring around their calves and will lash out with their trunks to keep them from harm’s way? The elephants will stand united and protect their young no matter what. Sounds like a wonderful way to live, but honestly, how many of us rally around one another? How much respect do we give to all those we meet and encounter?
I’m reminded of the story of heaven and hell. Where a man spoke with the Creator about heaven and hell, and the Creator said to the man, “Come, I will show you hell.”
They entered a room where a group of people sat around a huge pot of stew. Everyone was famished, desperate and starving. Each held a spoon that reached the pot, but each spoon had a handle so much longer than their own arm that it could not be used to get the stew into their own mouths. To no avail they each tried to feed themselves, but no one could get the helping of food into their mouth. The suffering was terrible.
“Come, now I will show you heaven,” the Creator said after a while. They entered another room, identical to the first — the pot of stew, the group of people, the same long-handled spoons. But everyone was happy and well nourished, there was laughter and chatter. “I don’t understand,” said the man. “Why are they happy here when they were so miserable in the other room and everything was the same?”
The Lord smiled, “Ah, it is simple,” he said. “Here they have learned to feed each other.”
Communities care for each other, they look out for one another and they appreciate each other’s contribution. More than that, when we realize it is our responsibility to do so, we become aware of how much power and influence we really possess and share. And together, we can make all the difference. Remember we are all connected; our words and actions don’t just affect us, but everyone around us. As Albert Einstein says, “Love is the answer.”
- Pay careful attention to how you treat the people around you—from your closest friends and family to the people you encounter day-to-day.
- Take care of the words you utter and the actions you practice.
- Do something kind for someone, perhaps even a stranger.
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