I recall vividly the day I became independent. It wasn’t a choice, it was thrust upon me. My brother decided, after years of sharing a room with me, he wanted his own place.

Now, that place was just across the hall, but it was a million miles away to me. I was heartbroken. What had I done? Why wouldn’t he want to go on living with me forever? The delusions of a younger brother, I know, but it was agonizing.

Now, I hadn’t done anything. My brother still loved me, as much as a pre-teen boy can love his adoring younger brother, but he wanted his own room.

One of the luxuries of our modern age is space. Not the far reaching universe explored by daring astronauts, “personal space”… what my brother wanted.

Just a couple of generations ago, families, even extended families, lived in homes composed of one large room. Everyone was very close, physically, there was very little privacy, and almost everything was shared… from clothes and shoes to chairs and beds. You always had someone next to you, invading your personal space.

This idea of “space” is a relatively new concept.  It’s a product of our blessings. As we attain more, we spread out and want the independent area to do our own thing. In essence, the more we acquire, the further removed we become.

Most people I know dream of a day when they can have enough money to move out of the suburbs and get some land. They are tired of the zero-lot lined subdivisions or apartments in which so many of us live. They want to get away from the crowds, from the people, and be out on their own.

They don’t want isolation, they just want to be able to chose when to invite people into their world, their space, and when to keep them out. How many people do you know who buy a big house on a large tract of land so they can “entertain”, yet, they never do?

Being hospitable and interacting takes a lot of work, especially when you have a big house to prepare and clean afterward. It’s not like having the neighbors over for coffee, everything become a big production.

This reverse of this concept was recently a reality for me. My family attended a conference that required us to share a one-room hotel room and, worse yet, one bathroom. I was really dreading this. I just knew we would drive each other crazy, but it was actually wonderful.

We were together, in one small room, at the dawn and close of each day. We talked and laughed and no one was able to go to their room and close the door. There was no personal space, no isolation. We shared everything, a TV, a bathroom, and beds. We grew closer emotionally through the physical proximity.

These few days helped me realize this concept of having our own space is driving a wedge in our relationships. Our efforts to be by ourselves keeps us from intimately knowing those around us, from sharing the defeats and victories in our lives, and prevents us from serving one another.

How can we reach those that need us most, physically and spiritually, if we are separating ourselves? As we are blessed, we need to think of greater ways to serve others, bring us closer, rather that spreading out. This will mean less personal space and independence, but will reap greater personal rewards than an empty 50 room mansion ever will.

How do you balance personal space with building relationships?

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