Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who should I know?

We've been back in Washington for two weeks. Almost everyone I know here is middle of the road or progressive, both politically and faith wise. As far as I know.

In Tucson, where we live in the winter, half the people I know are conservative. It's a different environment down there. Some people "stick with their own kind". One group I attended this year sees itself as a haven for progressives. However, this year we had several fascinating conversations. One day we had a transgender woman as our speaker; the next week we were visited by a woman who was trafficked as a prostitute from age 16 to 22. She is now 52, and she's advocate for those trying to get out of the business. I learned hugely from these two women. Maybe I'm naive, but it seems to me that conversations with "others" are broadening, regardless of our political or spiritual views. I relish the idea of a diverse group participating together in these conversations.

Another group I attended this year is mixed. Of the 30 or so people who meet at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays to discuss current events, views range from tea party conservative to far left. We're not avoiding each other on Wednesdays. We're encountering, on purpose, people who think differently from us. I doubt that any minds are changed, but we sometimes educate each other.  And most of the time we're respectful of each other's opinions. I like that. I am learning how conservatives think, and although I will never be a conservative myself, I'm grateful they're sharing their views.

I am slightly left of middle of the road politically and further left faith wise. But I benefit from my conversations with people whose views diverge from mine.

One day in March my handbell choir played at the in-resort Sunday service. In that service I noticed a number of the conservatives from the current events group. It was the first time I had seen most of them outside the Wednesday afternoon discussion. It's been many years since I listened to a sermon given by a conservative Christian, but I well remember the message. I realized again how my world view differs. But again, I was grateful for the exposure to the differences.

I believe we're all in this life together. I try to live in a loving, compassionate way. I feel accountable for how I use the talents I've been given; I want to be a good steward of those talents. I suspect many of us,  Tea Party or Far Left, Baptist or Unitarian Universalist, have similar inclinations. I think we have more in common than in our differences.

So who should I know? People like me and completely different from me. The very young and the positively ancient. The libertarians and the conspiracy theorists. The panhandlers and the preachers, the illegal immigrants and the holders of work visas. Whoever crosses my path.

This morning I went to my church and sat with 200 people of divergent spiritual views or none. We are a community of love and service. We listened, we sang, we laughed. These are my people. I am glad I am home.

16 comments:

Meryl Baer said...

Meeting people with different ideas and opinions expands our horizons and makes life interesting.

Linda Reeder said...

I think it's easier to have these conversations with relative strangers than it is with relative. I have conservative siblings, and one brother loves to taunt me, and one sister is very earnest in her faith and her conservatism, but really expressing myself can become awkward.
I don't have a lot of contact with conservatives, or that long list of others you named, but I do listen to some conservative radio and read some conservative editorials, so I try to get another perspective.
And then, of course, there was teaching public school in a lower middle class, immigrant populated neighborhood. That's contact with the "other".
I do enjoy your thoughtful posts.

Arkansas Patti said...

How nice that those conversations were not hostile. Too often both sides think they are the only opinion that matters while actually, both have sound points and weaknesses. Too bad we can't pick the best of both views and form a solid middle ground. You seem to be on that track. Kudos.

Frugal in France said...

This is a very beautiful post. I am not that far advanced yet and I regret it. I am trying but the difficulties of life always get in the way. I need to read more thoughtful writings like yours ! A big hello from your newest follower in France !

rosaria williams said...

Finding ways to meet and talk among people with different viewpoints is most civilized. Kudos to you and your group members.

Olga Hebert said...

i joined a UU church in Florida specifically so I would have a haven with birds of my feather while I am here.
I also joined a poetry group here that has been the source of very different perspectives shared in an open minded, supportive, and nonjudgemental way. Then there is the homeowner's association, where open minded, nonjudgemental support can be quite a challenge. Then I laugh at myself because mostly where ever I go in Florida there is a sea of older, somewhat affluent, white people. No matter, it is important to learn from others.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

This a really good post. I hope many read it. The more we listen and give thought to what others believe, the more we can expand our minds to decide how we feel. I think many are afraid to do so for it might rock their smaller boats. Enjoyed it.

Perpetua said...

Being left of centre myself I know just where you're coming from, Linda, and admire your openness to other points of view. I think in the US you have more polarity between the extremes, both politically and theologically, than we have in the UK, which makes it even more important that people like you try like this to bridge the gaps.

Meg said...

I certainly hear the conservative point of view here in Texas. I am a blue state person living in a red state, and it can be maddening and a little lonely at times!

#1Nana said...

I think the Universe sends me those conservatives because there is a lesson I need to learn.

Tom Sightings said...

We should all be as open-minded and tolerant of other views as you are. I sometimes think people's politics are a lot like religion -- beyond the realm of evidence and logic and instead a matter of faith and personal and cultural identity.

Eileen Hopkins said...

I relate to your comment. I believe I have lived my adult life in a rather safe cocoon with people of like minds. Then, for many reasons, I branched out and became one of "them"! I have discovered a new world of interesting people and also figured out that it is possible to embrace those of diverse ideas, faiths and opinions when one does not seek to change them. Listening to others can help you think through your own ideas with the results either solidifying or expanding. Enjoy all your new people!

Barbara - said...

I agree with Linda that the most difficult conversations are often with relatives. Left wing radical that I am, I try to have an open mind and enjoy other perspectives. My class on religion and multiculturaism was just discussing these evening how we would go about meeting and bonding and sharing with other religions-the difficulty is in starting such a group.

Retired English Teacher said...

I see myself as a moderate with views more liberal than conservative when it comes to politics. I'm not one to engage in political conversations with people other than my husband and children. We have a bit of a range in the group, but we have no conservatives in my children. I have very liberal minded children in the political arena. I listen to and read what conservatives have to say, but I can't go to that ultra right point of view on anything.

When it comes to faith. I am solid in my Christian faith. I read of other religions widely and have done much study in that area.

Bob Lowry said...

One of the benefits of our upcoming move to another part of the metro area is the opportunity to engage with different people. Where we live now the viewpoints, religious beliefs, and political opinions of the people we interact with are quite similar.

Moving give us the opportunity to shake things up a bit and try for a fresh diversity.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I love everything you have written here. Somewhere along the way I lost the skill or the patience to have satisfying conversations with those who express their conservatism in terms of bigotry. I can't remain calmly optimistic that we could reason together or learn from one another. I admire what you've been able to do!