Awhile ago, I had coffee with a dear friend, He is one of my oldest friends here in this city. I needed his guidance on something and he gladly offered up his time.
As we sat and talked and laughed and shared our hopes and dreams and challenges I was struck by how much we have both been ‘made different’ through this friendship.
My friend is pragmatic. He can always serve up a pretty bleak perspective on life and the economy, on government’s and social movements that states, ‘we are all going to hell in a handbasket’. In his pragmatic approach I have learned to listen deeply to the underlying message. To not take words at face value but to ask questions, dive in to gain understanding. I have learned to make space for someone else’s point of view. There is always something to be learned, gained, understood. Through this friendship, I have learned to let go of criticism, and the need to change the other to my point of view and open up to learning and growing on the common ground of respect for one another.
I am less pragmatic, taking a more Pollyanna approach to life and living. I want him to see the goodness in all mankind, the possibility of ‘better’, the imperative of kindness and letting people be their experiences while ensuring no one dies on our streets. His response has generally been, “Then let them experience cleaning up, getting a job, getting on with life. It’s not a free-ride.”
When I worked at a single’s homeless shelter, I struggled to convince him to see the world of homelessness through my eyes. And he resisted my insistence he was wrong to view the world his way. Go figure. Over time, I quit insisting he see it my way – by admitting the errors of his way – and moved into a place where his way had equal voice. And in that shift, everything shifted. We were both made different. We both let go of our intransigent views and opened up to the possibilities of another way — another way that lead to the building of common ground for the mutual benefit of all. Where once the line was drawn and we could not cross the barriers of our convictions, the light has filtered in, creating softness in those places where once only hard rock theories abounded.
To make a difference in the world I must let go of my insistence that my way is the only way. There are a thousand paths to get to the place we want to be. Every path matters.
To make a difference in the world I must stop judging where others are at and find the common ground of where we all live in a world where everyone has value and every point of view creates a world we can live in without fear.