Some days, I wish we lived in a different kind of world. A world where there was more communication and less rush to judgement. A world where there was more tolerance and respect for a much broader range of ideas. A world where people did not feel so threatened by ideas different than their own. A world where people didn’t jump to negative conclusions so quickly.
Last week, some people I knew jumped all over the President because in a photo he was carrying a book with a title they were sure meant he was secretly out to destroy America. Without reading a word of the book, or considering the idea that the President was merely making himself informed about varying economic points of view, they jumped to the worst possible conclusion. The book title was all they needed – and there was no talking about it. Period.
This week, I was particularly inspired by a story of a woman who overcame a lifelong prejudice and hatred out of love for her son. It was agonizing for her, but in the end she chose love.
I love stories like this, where people reach beyond their comfort zone and do something right. Whether it’s rescuing Jews from the Nazis, helping slaves along the Underground Railroad, standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, or just being a mom overcoming her own fears to text her gay son that she loved him. So when I found this story, I “Liked” it on Facebook…and somebody took it wrong without reading it and got upset with me because the headline reflected badly on their personal beliefs.
By the time I’d gotten to the end of the article, I’d actually forgotten what the headline was. It was a universal story about a mom and her love for her son. The original post was about the universal need for people to be more accepting of one another. It applied to everyone: the faithful, atheists, agnostics, conservatives, liberals, everyone. Universal enough for another 200,000+ people to repost it.
I find it both fascinating and sad how quickly people shut each other down and shut each other out. The answer these days to anything you disagree with is to shut it down or shut it out. From the snarky carpets about red-carpet fashions to the instant political backlash to everything the “other side” has to say, putting down and shutting down other people seems to be the order of the day.
That’s too bad, because we’re not doing the one thing we need to do: Talk.
All of this reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from The West Wing that goes something like this:
I want you to do what you want to do…I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it will mean and we’ll make it work. I want us to talk like we’re gonna figure it out together. I want us to talk… because I like the sound of your voice. I just want to talk.
So this is my task for the week. Reach out. Talk. And listen.