High River United Church of High River, Alberta


We Are Not Individuals - That's a Myth

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We like to think of ourselves as individuals. We speak freely of individual rights. We hear people declare that they are “self-made.” But those are all stories we tell ourselves, especially here in North America. We quickly claim our “individual rights” without always considering our responsibilities to others. 


No one is self-made. No matter how talented, intelligent or savvy a person may be, what they achieve is dependent upon the previous work, support and knowledge provided by others. Steve Jobs or Bill Gates could not have achieved what they have with computers without Thomas Edison developing the light bulb, for example, and without their school teachers and caregivers growing up, and their current employees of all categories. No one is self-made. No one has earned their wealth only because of their own efforts. No one’s wealth, resources or talents belong to them alone.


We are interdependent creatures, every one of us on this planet. None of us can survive without the support, work and contributions of many, many others, from past generations as well as those currently living all around the globe. We will never meet most of those who have made possible our lives and our way of living.


This pandemic, requiring us to isolate at home and, when we are out, to maintain a safe distance from each other, has played into the myth that we are individuals. In this required isolation, we can easily become self-focussed. The alarm we feel only heightens our need to care for only ourselves and those within our bubble. We can easily forget others in our community as well as in communities around the world who are facing the same pandemic challenges as we are, often with far fewer resources.


We are not individuals – and we must stop telling ourselves that we are. We must stop acting as if “I am the only one that matters (as well as those in my bubble.)” During the flood here in High River in 2013, it was very natural to reach out to neighbours who needed extra help. So it has been with other natural disasters. But now with the pandemic, we are pulling back into ourselves. It is harder to notice what is happening for our neighbours because we aren’t supposed to spend time with them.


This physical distancing is necessary, yes! However, we must push against our natural tendency to focus on our own needs and our own rights in this situation.


I invite us to start living as the interconnected community that we truly are:


-wear a mask. Your mask protects me. My mask protects you. This is not an individual right or choice. Unless you have a medical reason which prevents you from wearing a mask, please wear one. Otherwise you could unintentionally spread COVID to family, friends and strangers. When you don’t wear a mask, you can do harm to others. If we all would wear a mask, it would significantly reduce the spread of this virus. Wash & sanitize your hands. Keep 6 ft./2 metres apart from those not in your household bubble. This is the only way we can reduce the virus spread right now. And we can only do it by working together.


-think of others on your street and among your friends and family. Wonder about how they are doing right now. While we can’t physically sit together, there are many other ways to connect. Take time to phone/e-mail/message/chat from a safe distance and ask, really ask, “How are you today?” Why not go old-fashioned and drop a card in the mail?


-support agencies working in our communities and in communities around the world who are seeking to help the most vulnerable.   We are so blessed here in Canada with the medical care and food we have access to. Others are facing this pandemic with much poorer medical facilities and equipment and with lack of food and safe drinking water. People who have ended up living on the street, for many reasons, are facing a difficult winter. In our communities, there are those who are lonely, grieving, and struggling financially. We can find ways to offer support and make a positive difference.


We are not individuals. We are interconnected, interdependent human beings. It is only when all of us are safe, healthy and cared for that each of us are safe, healthy and cared for. We are meant to use the gifts, money, resources and talents we have for the common good. We are blessed so that we may be a blessing in this world. I give thanks that I can be a blessing to others each day. And I give thanks for the many ways each of you, those I’ve met and those I haven’t yet met, offer blessing to my life, in ways I may not even know.


This is the true wonder of being human – that we are not individuals!


©Susan Lukey 2020




Thank you so much for reading this article. We invite you to make a donation to our congregation’s ongoing ministry of help, home and hope by going to our website and clicking on “Give Online” or to CanadaHelps.org and finding our page.

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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

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