Years ago, my husband and I took vows in front of family and friends to attempt to create one life from two. In those solemn moments, we vowed to love each other “when our love is easy and when it is an effort”. With a great deal of effort, laughter, and tears, we have created a combined life that works for us, but we will always be two separate individuals. A couple of weeks ago, we argued. I felt angry enough to hear the voice in the back of my head suggesting I should step away before I said something I regretted, and this time, unlike many other times, I listened to it and gave my anger time to dissipate. My point and my opinion did not change, but once the fiery anger cleared I realized I still sat across from the man I loved more than any other person on this planet. No matter how intimately we know each other, we can never truly know what one step in each other’s shoes feels like. Sometimes, part of loving each other is faith built on years of developing trust – believing that though we may not understand the other’s perspective, that perspective must still be important because it is important to the one we love. So, we try to listen and to understand. Sometimes, we fail and spend time feeling like adversaries, but we try again. We try until we find ground on which we both feel comfortable walking.
I have difficulty watching or reading the news. The challenges facing our world seem so large, and I feel powerless to effect any positive change. I don’t know good answers to hard questions, and I doubt any one person does. If finding common ground with an adored spouse, who I trust with my life, sometimes seems difficult, how much more challenging is it to try to find common ground with strangers in a news story. We question motives. We draw imaginary lines and bash the people we have never spoken to on the other side of those lines on social media. We look for others who support our opinion believing that the more people we can group together with similar opinions, the more we can proclaim our opinion as the most correct one. I am not a history scholar, but from what little I know, division does not heal but leaves pain in its path.
Few people will ever be in the position to make decisions on major national or global issues. However, we all have choices with how we treat and understand those in the communities around us. If I want to attend a religious service, do I ever choose to attend one that I know little about or that professes beliefs different from my own? Do I call a friend to go eat dinner at her favorite restaurant which I doubt serves food I normally enjoy? Do I take time to really listen to my young son when something that I deem as trivial, like whether his sandwich is cut in half, seems so important to him? Do I truly seek to understand my spouse’s perspective when our opinions differ?
May we all look down at the shoes of those around us, try to find common ground, and attempt to walk as friends and neighbors with those around us.
This is one of my favorite songs covered by One Voice Children’s Choir called “J’Imagine”.