Four years ago, several of my friends started a salon-style women's group here in Boston. The topics have been wide-ranging, from "History of the Middle East", "Micro-Finance", "In Defense of Wonderland", to "Reflections on Mothering". Each of the founding members, who are Mormon, has invited friends and associates who are not Mormon to attend. Our friends come and enjoy, but they don't keep coming.
I've wondered why.
On Thursday, we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and their family who were up from New York.
My husband and I had never met our friends' sister, but within five minutes of meeting one another, we had discovered many mutual friends. New York and Boston are large cities, the Mormon communities are not.
It may be months or years before I see my friends' sister again, but when I do, I will feel connected to her. She's not only my friend's sister, she's the friend of my dear friends, her colleague from work took piano from the father of another of friend, and so on.
In Orson Scott Card's book The Call of Earth we learn of the character Hushith. As a raveler, Hushith "lives in the constant awareness of all the connections and relationships among the people around her." Having a web-sense is naturally the most important thing in her life, as she watches people connect and detach from each other, forming communities and dissolving them."
If Hushith were to observe your community and mine, what would she see? No doubt, she would find powerful connections amongst those with whom we worship. Would she also find we are connected to our neighbors, the people with whom we work, go to school?
When we meet other Mormons, we share beliefs, language, experiences. If we live in Boston or New York, it's likely that the filaments or strands that connect us to that person isn't a single strand, but many. It's quite wonderful.
It also may explain why it feels harder, and requires more effort, to make friends, and build bridges, with those outside our faith.
It's worth the effort. There are so many wonderful people to know and to care about. And our world will feel happier and safer the more friends we have.
But knowing it's going to be harder, somehow makes it easier.