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THE DISRUPTION OF TRAVEL

Much of the news this summer seems to have been about the disruption of travel: flight cancellations, traffic jams in Dover, and strikes on the railways.

One of the great revolutions of the 20th century was travel. In the 19th century the railway and then the bicycle released people from the narrow communities in town and country in which they had lived and worked for generations. But in the 20th century the motor car and the aeroplane have made the whole world our oyster.

The advantages are obvious. Our personal horizons have widened, as we have visited other places and other countries. We have encountered people of different cultures and ways of life. We have seen awe-inspiring landscapes and ancient cities. On another level we all benefit from the movement of goods around the world, both from its natural resources and from manufacturing. Where would we be without lorries and ships, cars and aeroplanes? But all this travel causes disruption of another sort, not least to our communities.

Consider that most basic of all human communities, the family. In my own childhood, I had grandparents on both sides living within walking distance of us. But both my sister and I moved away when we grew up, and lived in other parts of the city and the country. Of my own two children, one has lived in Japan and then the USA where her children were born, and the other has lived, worked, married, brought up his family, and settled in France. Our daughter and her family did return from the USA, but lived 150 miles away from us, until we moved to be closer to them in our old age. Disrupted families.

Ease of travel has been no less disruptive of the wider communities in which we live. It has meant that most people now live and work in separate places. For some, a large part of the day is now spent either in the car or on the train travelling back and forth to work, not leaving much time for the development of friendships either at work or at home. This is particularly evident in country villages. Many houses in our villages are now little more than dormitories during the week, and worse still, many more are now 'second homes' in which the owners only appear at all at weekends or holidays. Disrupted villages, and similarly disrupted neighbourhoods in our towns.

On top of all this, few people stay in the same town or village, or even in the same area, for much of their lives. Whatever friendships we may have made in one place are soon severed as we move on to another job, another house, or even another country. In terms of personal relationships we mostly live disrupted lives.

Not surprisingly loneliness and isolation are serious problems in our mobile society. At the very beginning God said, "It is not good for the man (or the woman) to live alone." (Genesis 2.18) But many people today, young and old, live alone and are increasingly lonely. The UK Mental Health Foundation found that 60% of young adults felt lonely 'often or sometimes'. A recent survey in Japan suggested that at least half a million people in that country lived as 'hermits': not going out of their houses from one year's end to the next. And 'virtual friends' on-line, are virtual, not friends. Disrupted lives and disrupted communities. But these are all things from which Jesus came to save us.

This should all remind us Christians of the importance of friendship and fellowship in our churches. Jesus said, to his followers, "You are my friends," and "Love each other". (John 15.14, 17) He is our friend, and we are his, and we are called to be friends and to love one another in the church, wherever we live in the world. How important it is that we take trouble to do just that, and not only to be friends of those in church already, but to draw others, especially the isolated and lonely, into that loving fellowship with Jesus and with us all.

The love that we have for one another in the church is not a natural love, based on worldly things that we have in common, indeed it is a love that over-rides the worldly things that so often divide us: race, class, age, education, occupation. But neither is it a love that comes naturally to us. It is a fruit of the Spirit, who fills us and dwells within us. (Galatians 5.22) We all need to find a church where love for one another is real, and then we need to invite others to come, and 'taste and see'. (Psalm 34.8) ­­­

Perhaps the American comic and poet, Ogden Nash, was right when he said, "Progress was alright once, but now it's gone too far." Perhaps we could all question our life-styles and the amount that we travel, but above all we should try to redeem the world around us from the disruption that travel has caused in so many lives.

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I have written a book exploring all this further: Love Each Other, (available on Amazon).

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Next Friday I hope to write about the choice of a new Prime Minister.

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