As some of you know, I live in the northern Rocky Mountains of northwestern Wyoming in the USA.
Wyoming is a huge state, ninth in size among the 50 United States. It’s a vast, sprawling land of rolling prairies stretching beyond the distant horizons, and high rugged mountains reaching far up into the big blue skies.
Wyoming is mostly empty. Despite its size, it has less than half a million people, the smallest population of all 50 states. Which is one of the reasons I love it here. I’m not antisocial. I just don’t like crowded places.
Wyoming people are unique, as unique as their land. They still have that fiercely independent frontier spirit. The spirit that carried the pioneers onward back in the days of the Old West.
You couldn’t ask for better neighbors than you get in Wyoming. They’re friendly folks. They have strong beliefs and values. But they also have a live-and-let-live attitude. They’ll accept you, whether or not you believe or live the same way they do. Good folks, really good folks.
There’s a strong sense of community here. I never realized how strong until now. And I don’t mean just in the local communities, but state-wide.
I recently had some legal questions about my business. None of the local authorities could help me. So I called the Wyoming Attorney General’s office. It was lunchtime, and I got the voice mail system.
I was slightly shocked to hear the voice of the Attorney General himself on the recording. It was warm and friendly. Definitely not something I was used to, having lived many years in the Washington, DC suburbs.
I left a message. And, again to my great surprise, the head of the department I needed called me back shortly. He was an attorney (a very friendly one, at that!) and he answered all my questions.
Then we started chatting on a personal level, something I’d never experienced before with a high government bureaucrat. It was a warm and wide-ranging conversation, as if we’d been friends and neighbors for many years.
After we said goodbye, I realized, more than ever, why I love this place so much. People truly care about each other here. Poor folks, average folks, rich folks, men, women, politicians, high government officials, it doesn’t matter what your status is.
Wyoming is known not only for its cowboys and cowgirls. It’s also known as the Equality State, and was the first state to give women the vote. All are equal here.
I don’t know exactly why that is. We certainly have most of the problems, albeit on a smaller scale, more crowded places have. So perhaps it’s because there are so few of us. Or because we have so much space and don’t crowd each other into madness. Or it’s the frontier spirit still alive in us.
I don’t really know. But this I do know: There’s a sense of community.
You’ve heard it said your world is shrinking–you live in an increasingly global community. Obviously, the planet is not literally shrinking, physically. But your modern technology has made it possible for you to communicate instantly among yourselves, no matter where in the world you are.
That capability has truly cast all of you into the “global community.” A community where you are all closely bonded to one another. As you say in some of your marriage rituals, “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; until death do us part.”
Whether you like it or not, you are all connected to one another. As our dear Chief Seattle said, “Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
You are more closely connected in “the web of life” than ever before in human history. And therefore, now–more than ever before–what even a single individual among you does affects every other human on the planet.
That, of course, has always been true. But today your technology makes that fact far more obvious to all of you than ever before. And often painfully obvious. Especially in the midst of your so-called war on terror.
We do not wish to discuss the war on terror today. But we do wish to stress the obvious–you are all connected in this global community.
However, there is little sense of community in your global lives–that sense John described exists in his home state of Wyoming.
There is, instead, a fractured sense of discord, disharmony, distrust. This is not a bad thing, for it will ultimately bring all of you to the realization that you are truly all one.
Yes, you can have your differences, your individualities, if you will–among individuals, groups, churches, governments, nations, etc. But you must ultimately come to the conclusion that the good of one is the good of all. The willingness to allow the differences while compassionately working toward the common good is the goal here.
Fighting against the differences will only ensure more divisiveness. Accepting the differences while sincerely wanting the highest good for all is the only way you will ever ensure a truly connected world.
A world where all are equal, all are accepted. A world where there truly is a sense of community.