Masses vs. Individuals

I've confirmed within myself that I truly am an introvert. I'm also a homebody and I would imagine the two are related, though my home seems always filled with people - which is good, don't get me wrong. Being an introvert does not mean I don't like people. For me, it just means I like people best in small batches of about 5 or less. And I like being alone. I really like being alone. A lot and maybe too much.

I'm wary of being selfish.


I can handle being in a crowd if there is an edge, but if you force me to the middle I'll try to be funny and that won't always work out. Trying to be funny was probably the only reason I ever got in trouble at school - I've read the report cards: Tresta needs to learn to not talk out of turn; Tresta is doing well but she is a little too talkative with her neighbors; there is too much talking.


That child-me was trying to fit in a world of The Middle, looking for edges and trying to make you laugh until one was available. That's the only thing I can figure. I will always want the back row of seats, the side pews, the room by myself; and if, heaven forbid, you make us stand up and greet our neighbor, I will thrust a hand toward the obligatory one person and wish I'd never come.

I can't focus in the middle of a room but if I find an edge, and someone else there, too - I'll probably be fine.


As it turns out, the world has no edges.

All those flat-land people were warning explorers about sea monsters and endless waterfalls at the edge of what they knew. Warning Columbus about the folly of a round earth. The unknown is always more dangerous and scary than real life, because what if?  We can imagine a thousand scenarios about what might happen, what could be true, what dangers are possible in a flat land full of sharp drop-offs.

But everything about this life might turn out to be circular, from the rounded belly that holds the future to the round of stories we tell ourselves to survive the present. Even our history is a round of events we'll see again.

But we keep telling ourselves that life is flat and all those people at the edges of our world (because wherever we stand is the middle) are flat and two-dimensional and scary.

Or, we tell ourselves they are multi-dimensional and too complicated for us and that's scary, too.


A year ago a young man told me his solution to terrorism: bomb an entire country known for hiding terrorists.

It was simple to him for the same reason it's easy for me to throw blankets over whole groups of people. Stereotypically (all stereotypes are bad), we make assumptions about things and people and events far removed from us.

He was genuinely concerned for people he loves and the possibility of their being harmed right in their very cities, but he'd placed those people in those places in a flatland of nonentities, all sharp-edged and calloused.

Haven't we all been harmed already?

I gently reminded his youthfulness that there are not whole countries of bad guys and whole countries of good guys. We are intermingled and our own badness intertwines with any goodness the Lord has seen fit to allow us to hold.

We hold goodness only so far as we hold on to Jesus, and we are always letting Him go to point fingers. And weapons.

I really think his mind changed a little. Had it never occurred to this young man that there were real, 3 dimensional people there?


I was at a baby shower last weekend and it was so crowded, so hot, so many conversations at once. I had a choice between this large gathering of ladies and a smaller gathering with a few dear friends, both happening at the same time. Normally I would opt for the small gathering. I went to the shower though, to honor the lovely young mother and to be with my own daughters.

I found the edges there. I even (even!) introduced myself to someone new as we stood with our backs against the wall, and I learned that we had a common connection. All of a sudden, the edge rounded out and a whole world of commonality opened up.

She wasn't scary. I wasn't scary.

Aren't we all connected? Don't we choose who to acknowledge and leave others out, preferring the disconnection of time and space and culture? Our mistakes begin when we see masses of people instead of many individuals.

Every person is a deep well and our ropes are so often too short, our buckets too small. This is the beauty of knowing people, really spending time and plumbing the depths: we see that every person is deeper and more connected to God than we can ever imagine.

In a view of masses vs. individuals, it always benefits us to see people as God sees them.


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