Young or old, male or female, immigrant or Native American, educated or not, those of various religions and preferences, we are all human and share a great deal in common. Sadly, it has been difficult recently to find the common factors. The divide shows up among once jovial neighbors, friends who share a monthly bridge game, family members at the dinner table, co-workers in the staff office. The parting of ways manifests itself dramatically on social media where unbridled frustration and fear appear at every click. Uneasiness is apparent in polite conversation, as people try to be kind and avoid tricky topics.
My blog is about the journey—particularly about taking on new risks and adventures in the final quarter of the game. So why am I writing about the above? Because it’s inescapable — and it’s part of the game. What’s going on in our country affects the lives of our children and grandchildren and we need to pay attention. I don’t pretend to have a solution to the divide we’re experiencing, but do suggest eight first steps:
- Listen to many voices, i.e. access varied sources of information
Intentionally read papers and watch news broadcasts that are known to be of the opposite political leaning from your own.
- Avoid hasty conclusions about people
Adopt a “no conclusion, no judgment” posture. Period.
- Go out of your way to meet new people, especially those who have a different appearance, nationality, religion, or lifestyle
If you are Christian, visit a mosque. If you are Muslim, attend a Christian service.
- Smile more
This actually feels good and is perhaps the easiest way to say “Welcome to my world.”
- Take the time to hear people’s stories
Preconceived ideas about people (aka prejudices), especially about certain groups of people, usually vanish when we actually get to know a person.
- Give second chances
We are human!
- Choose gentle language
How differently we might view the national health care discussion, for example, if the plan were called a ”pilot program,” which any new initiative is, to be reviewed and improved, rather than a “failure,” to be repealed. Words are powerful and can be neutral or inflammatory.
- Be empathetic: imagine walking in the other’s shoes, figure out what makes that person tick
This may require all of the above. Experience a softening of the heart, let go of rigid beliefs, and become a more compassionate person.
Perhaps the above steps will help make a difference. It’s worth a try!
~ Post Script ~
For social media posters who share cute pictures and uplifting quotes, thanks for brightening my day.
For friends who approach me directly with honest respectful dialog about difficult issues, kudos to you for giving this a chance.
For leaders who take a stand for what is right in the face of repercussions, I congratulate your bravery.
For those who pray, please pray fervently that we will overcome the divide and again find the common threads we share as Americans.