Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. Romans 15:2
Yesterday my daughter had outpatient surgery, and I had several hours to reflect on the verse above and on the idea of how we build up one another and pave the way for our neighbors and those yet to come. Even being there at Gettysburg Wellspan Hospital and watching how my daughter’s caregivers worked together to make the experience a successful one reinforced this idea. Each person was part of a seamless whole–from the valet who opened her car door to the nurse who wheeled her out six hours later–all doing their best to provide care, hope, and healing.
We do not operate in a vacuum. Everything we do has an impact on someone else in some way. It can be for good or for ill, but it will affect the fabric of the universe in some way. We do have some choice in how we approach life. We can be like a bumper car bouncing off of others in a random or determined fashion thinking only of our own pleasure and goals. Or, we can be like weavers working with others to create something strong, beautiful, and useful–a collaboration of individual fibers that each brings character, dimension, and color to the whole.
As for me, I prefer the latter approach because I realize that I am who I am today thanks to so many people who have paved the way before me, who have touched my life, and who have woven strands of themselves into the fabric of my being. Some of these folks have made significant personal sacrifice–family members, friends, folks in the various faith communities of which I have been a part–in an effort to help me thrive and grow. Likewise, I am thankful to be able to sacrifice for others and pay forward some of the abundant blessings I have experienced.
As English poet and priest John Donne wrote in Meditation XVII
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main
We, each one of us, are where we are today because of the work and building up others have done on our behalf. “Bootstrap” mentality and the notion of a “self-made person” are illusion; one may work hard and succeed, but that success is built on an existing foundation, a bit of something much bigger than ourselves. That, dear friends, is something really quite wonderful.
Who in your life has paved the way and helped build your firm foundation? How will you build up another?