I noticed a loose thread in a blanket the other day and was reminded of something my mom always said: Never pull on a loose thread. All that will do is make it worse. It’ll yank on the other threads and create a knot.
Even if you manage to remove the thread without doing too much damage to the fabric, it’ll leave a space that starts the nearby threads working their way loose, too. Soon, the whole thing unravels.
Removing even one thread from the fabric creates big problems.
Isn’t it the same with us?
Each of us is a thread woven into the fabric of our world. We’re looped around each other, pulled tightly to one another, intimately bound to one another. We’re so closely intertwined that we can’t be separated without making it all unravel.
By ourselves, we are a thread. Together, we are a blanket.
The weaver made it so.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way in a letter he wrote while imprisoned in a Birmingham jail in 1963: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Everyone and everything is bound together. Everything that we do affects those bound to us. Every exhaled breath changes our environment. Every interaction with another person touches them on some level. Every act of love and compassion affects them. Every moment of selfishness and indifference does, too.
It’s a great thing, this coming together as part of something much, much bigger than any one of us individually. We get to be more than just one solitary thread.
But let’s be honest: It’s not really a popular concept these days.
We hear a lot about individual threads, but very little about the social fabric. We hear: Everyone is on their own. Don’t limit my rights in any way. Don’t ascribe any responsibilities to me. Don’t expect me to contribute to the common good. Don’t expect me to compromise on anything. I’m the only thread that matters.
We delude ourselves into thinking we’re the entire blanket when, in fact, we’re only one thin thread.
When even a few threads work their way loose and separate, the whole fabric starts to unravel. We see that in our world, don’t we? We’re frayed and coming apart in so many ways.
The well-off pull away from the needy. Nations distance themselves from other nations and pursue only what they perceive as self-interest. Religions push each other away because they want to feel smug and superior. People create distances between themselves out of mistrust and prejudice and insecurity. And there is so much violence — the ultimate expression of pulling apart.
Our blanket has unraveled in so many places. It’s no longer capable of providing warmth in those many places.
In his book “It’s Really All About God — Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian,“ Samir Selmanovic puts it this way: “We want supremacy, but that is not what we really need. What we really need is to learn to be a part of the whole.”
We need to embrace our assigned place as an important part of something much bigger than any of us. We need to help the weaver repair our snags and knit our world back together again.
There’s a lot to be done, but it can be done.
The alternative is to leave us hanging by a loose thread.