Tag Archives: iron sharpening iron

Monday Morning Moment – Isolation and Community

Photo Credit: Jackie Hill Perry, Art of It

After one-and-a-half years in COVID, we all have grappled with a need for social distancing and isolation. What happens then when the diligent pursuit of physical safety causes a loss of community?

None of us want to get COVID or its latest variant. However, we also desperately need community. It is on each of us to make creative and persistent decisions toward going after community. Especially the most vulnerable of us, or we will suffer more than the health impact of COVID [see links below].

The dilemma with isolation is somehow it has brought a social lethargy with it. We are becoming more solitary and our community has shrunk to the lowest and tightest we can manage.

Not necessarily out of fear of COVID, but out of a growing incapacity for community. Real community. “Iron sharpening iron” relationships.

I know I am not alone in the need for such community. We have probably all thought of how altered our relationships have become over the last several months. Not the closest maybe, but especially those that spurred us toward a higher accountability, responsibility or integrity. Those relationships where we are helped to make better decisions or extend kindnesses (especially toward those outside our inner circles).

[Whether introvert or extrovert, we can easily sink down into a solitary life of less. And less is not always more. This less can breed a sort of self-serving life where we gauge our relationships by our own gains and extend ourselves by our own comfort levels. Been there, done that. Ugh! ]

COVID or not, we still need other people, and they need us. Whether on a work project better served with team problem-solving or a family crisis that could use “all hands on deck”. Death and divorce are still happening, but life celebrations are also still with us – all calling for the touch of our community.

In the Wiki fandom Mary Shelley article, we read a fascinating take on the impact or lack of community on the characters of Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein.

In the novel, Victor Frankenstein is a brilliant scientist. He is overwhelmed by a series of losses and the grief, as well as his increasingly unhinged genius, drive him into isolation. He decides to make a human-like creature who would be like a son to him.

It did not turn out well. The creature, because of the rejection and isolation he himself felt, was determined to be a monster.

Both Victor and the creature Frankenstein, throughout the story, are plagued with isolation and a terrible lack of caring community.Photo Credit: Pixabay

The theme of isolation in Frankenstein raises many questions about the role of community and its importance. Many characters in the novel find themselves in isolated positions, and a few suffer grave consequences because of it. Characters suffer from both physical and emotional isolation, although, as in the case of the monster, the isolation is not always self-inflicted. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, chooses to isolate himself from his family, his peers, and even the monster he created.

In Frankenstein, horrible things happen when a character is isolated from the others. When Victor’s knowledge and ambition are unchecked by his peers, a monster is created…the destructive power lies not in the monster or his creator, but in solitude. Shelley uses this theme and its manifestation in her characters to pose questions about community, knowledge, and its role in society. Is unbridled knowledge always dangerous, or is there a middle ground? Should one abandon his or her pursuits if they are driving him or her away from a community? 

Shelley makes it clear that there are two different types of isolation: self-inflicted and societal. We see self-inflicted isolation manifested in Victor; he detaches from his world and the people he loves and as a result, everyone suffers tremendously. Rejection from society is demonstrated in the monster’s life. Again and again, he is turned away from love and companionship, which what he has longed for since he was first brought to life.” – Wiki-Fandom Analysis of Frankenstein – Mary Shelley, an Academic Wiki

Of course, this is a novel, but incredibly insightful as a tale of human nature. We need community…we are made for community.

Somehow we must rally during this protracted social experience of COVID. What is your mindset on this and what are your intentional actions toward community and away from isolation? The kind of isolation that eventually diminishes us and our relationships. Please comment below.

In closing, I do want to affirm an Isolation in Community. We may have to deal with social distancing for sometime still. Especially those most vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. For some isolation can’t be avoided, but there is an isolation in community. Where we take steps toward and lean in to deeper community. Even if it isn’t always in person. This takes a different sort of effort, but we know it is possible. Fortunately. For me, it’s actually using the phone for conversations (including Facetime). It’s not stepping out of responsibilities (work or community service) because of a need for social distancing, but figuring out alternate ways to serve, or get a job done. I have also experienced the fruit of it, thanks to your efforts. Our mail is less junk mail and more actual real connections through cards/letters. Thanks for that. Again, please comment below what your experience has been here.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Isolation – Good Therapy

Isolation and Community – Helen Thorne – Biblical Counseling UK

Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions – CDC

Creative Communities Are Addressing Social Isolation – Maryjoan Ladden

Balcony People – The Encouragers in Our Lives – You Know Who You Are – and We’re Grateful

Blog - Balcony People - Better TogetherBetter Together, George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco

Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

People who know me well know the struggle I have with insecurity and self-doubt. It doesn’t seem so but it’s true. I have been blessed with great encouragers in my life who have fanned the flame of vision and cheered me on when it was for me to do a hard thing. Those dear ones are what Joyce Landorf Heatherley calls “balcony people” – those encouragers who stand and cheer us on. We all have occasions to be so in each others’ lives. I love the opportunity myself, to be an encourager, having had it modeled so well for me.Blog - Balcony People book

I read this little (70-page) book years ago, but it still comes to mind often when people are kind enough to come alongside and encourage me to be that person for the job, or to do what’s needed whatever it is… It wasn’t because they couldn’t do it but for me to grow into a person of greater capacity. Or, just because I’m the one for the job. Imagine.

Encouragement isn’t just pat-you-on-the-back praise or superficial compliments. Jenn Arman defines it here: “Encouraging someone can mean you’re giving them support or confidence, but is also means that you’re helping to develop something in them. When the Bible talks about encouragement, it usually means that one is calling someone to their side in order to teach, comfort, strengthen or push them to act in a certain way. People who encourage others say with love what a person needs to hear, when they need to hear it–even if it isn’t what the person wants to hear.

The greatest encourager in my long life has been Jesus. He was/is the consummate encourager. Even hours before He went to His death, He could have turned the attention of His disciples on Himself. Yet, that would not be the case. He had compassion on his disciples and taught and encouraged them even in those last hours:

[Jesus speaking] “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering; but have courage, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

There have been great numbers of encouragers along the way in my life, and I couldn’t begin to mention them all here…you know who you are. Through the photos below, I will mention some. Thank you all. Thank God for you.Blog - Balcony People - Paulette BuffingtonMy life-long friend, Paulette, who stuck by me all these years and who was brave enough to say loving hard things to me when needed. She went to be with the Lord recently, and I miss her.

BLog - Balcony People - Kay Mitchell & JoeKay – my friend and colleague at a time I was a new-in-town cancer nursing specialist. Trying to win the confidence of the staff of a cancer center, I leaned on Kay for counsel and kindness. She taught me a whole new understanding of the phrase, “Get over it!”

Blog - Balcony People - KathyKathy – my student, who would years later take my place at that same cancer center. I learned more from her than she ever did from me. She makes me proud and humbles me with her enduring friendship.Blog - Balcony People - Jan McMurrayJan – who was my parenting mentor. She relentlessly spoke truth into my life, and I needed it. Our children still know (and now appreciate more) the rules of the house affected by Mrs. Jan.

Blog - Balcony People - LindaLinda – whose friendship I’ve enjoyed for over 20 years and who taught me how to pray bigger than ever before.

33Heba – a friend and daughter from another mother who makes me laugh every single time we talk. What a gift from God she is.

Kim & Blythe 2Blythe – a young friend who was a true balcony person in my life and has grown into this incredible woman, wife, mother. Kim – who was teacher and friend to our son and became a dear friend to me.

Dan & Marge 2Marge – also a teacher to this son of mine and my friend in a hard season. We walked the streets of Cairo together. I learned from her.

2006 May -- Shana & EdShana – who helped me in more ways than she knows, teaching me a lot about capacity…and joy in the simplest of things.

2006 July -- Nezha & DebbieNezha – who was my friend in a mid-life season – with such class and  generosity of heart.

2014 Phone pics July-December 119Lisa – this friend who taught me about forgiveness and perseverance – who also visited us in Africa multiple times – I see God much more clearer through her experience of Him.

Blog - Balcony People - KarenKaren – my friend and colleague – whose wise counsel has encouraged me in these days…and she actually reads my blogs. ‘Nuff said.

There are as many encouragers as there are days…but I will stop here…with these. My Mom, my mom-in-law, and my daughter – all have believed in me and leaned into my life. You know what a great thing this is in your own life. These people who want to come close – for their sake and for yours. Struggling with fear as I do, these women have brought an uncommon grace into life for me.Mom pictures for website 012

Last, and never least, there’s this guy…I can’t say enough about how his love has altered the course of my life…for the better. “He put stamps in my passport.”…and helped me be a mom. Thank you, Dave.Blog - Dave in France

Whether we care to admit it or not, we all need people who believe in us. Or believe God enough to see in us what He sees and what we can’t see ourselves. How empowering that is!!!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…Hebrews 12:1-2a

Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherley

Where Are All Your Balcony People?

Basement People vs. Balcony People

Balcony People – a Study in Philemon by James MacDonald

What Does Encouragement Really Mean?

Having Courage and Being an Encourager – from the Bible study series: Marks of Maturity – Biblical Characteristics of a Christian Leader