A couple of weeks ago my mom and I went to see Come From Away, a musical about when the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland received 38 planes’ worth of passengers on 9/11 when American airspace closed.
It’s an odd choice for a musical, really, but it was fantastic. On a day of almost unimaginable tragedy, this little town received visitors from near and far with open arms, open homes, and all the love their Canadian hearts could hold.
If you get a chance, go see it – it’ll both challenge you and restore your hope in humanity. But what really stuck with me was the way the Canadians adopted their guests not as an inconvenience or a potential security threat but as travelers who needed to be welcomed.
From the first minutes of the tragedy the entire island seemed to sense that each person on that plane was not a nuisance but a neighbor.
At one point in the musical the names of the dead are read on the news, and an entire gas station falls silent to honor those who were lost. A Canadian gas station–a country not under attack, but simply a neighbor to one who was.
“I don’t know if that would have happened in America,” says one of the passengers.
In a world of us verses them, you verses me, red verses blue, progressive verses conservative, it can be easy to forget God’s call to unity. That we belong not just to ourselves, and not even just to the Almighty, but to one another.
The first time I realized our newborn daughter Felicity didn’t just belong to Daryl and me–her parents–was three days after her birth. She’d woken up early to nurse, so when I heard her older brothers stirring, I brought her into the living room and put her in her bouncy seat to socialize a little.
“Hi, baby!” Wilson chirped, bounding into the living room. For the next few minutes, the boys sat by her side, chattering to each other, getting to know her, marveling at her tiny fingers and ears and nose.
I wanted to run up to them and give them all the new baby warnings running through my head: Be careful, she doesn’t have any neck control yet! Don’t touch her face; you might share your germs! Watch out–that bouncy seat can tip over if you lean on it!
Then I realized that this was an incredibly precious moment, and I was about to ruin it with a litany of “Do Nots.” She was safe in her seat. The boys were being gentle. They were awed, really, welcoming this tiny person whose kicks they’d felt, whose face they’d pictured but never before seen.
Also, she wasn’t just my baby. She was ours.
She belonged to my husband and to me, but to our boys as well. And not only that, she belonged to our neighborhood–the family of eight across the street, the bachelor in his 40s who lives next door, the dear folks who fill the pews in our church, our administrative assistant who cracks a huge smile every time the baby visits the office, our extended relatives who live thousands of miles away.
The same is true of you. Of me. We are not our own.
We belong, first and foremost, to the God who loves us, who created us and carries us and sent his son on our behalf.
But after that, we belong to one another.
It’s a heartening realization as a mother to discover that the weight of my children is not all on my shoulders, that the blessings and burdens of parenthood are meant to be shared.
But it’s terrifying, too. My children may belong to God and to our community, but that means the kids down the block are partially my responsibility, too. My bachelor neighbor in his 40s. The family of eight across the street. Those in the pews in front of me and behind me. My extended relatives thousands of miles away.
We are woven and interwoven in ways that strengthen the fabrics of our lives, that share responsibility for our futures. God has created us to need one another intimately, desperately, continually. To care for one another tenderly.
There’s a reason Jesus says the whole of Scripture can be summed up in the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” he tells the crowds, in Matthew’s Gospel (7:12, NIV).
What would you do for yourself? What is God calling you to do for another?