Get Closer

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was heading to lunch with a work friend when I tripped at the top of a set of very tall and very steep concrete steps.  I tried to grab the railing to catch myself, but it was too far away.  Luckily, my friend was strong and had good reflexes, because he shot out his arm to block my fall, and then steadied me with his other hand.  If it hadn’t been for him, I would have fallen all the way down those stairs and ended up in a broken heap on the asphalt parking lot many feet below.  I was still shaken when we reached the restaurant, and apparently, so was my friend, because the first thing he did was order a stiff drink.  I noticed his hand was trembling slightly when he lifted the glass.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he saved my baby’s life.

Aside from our work life, my friend and I had very little in common.  He was single and still living with his parents while I was married and living in my own house.  He had never left the St. Louis area, whereas I had only recently returned to it.  He was gay; I was straight.  I was an avid animal lover, yet when I asked him to sign my anti-vivisection petition, he politely declined, saying he saw nothing wrong with experimenting on animals if it had the potential to help humans.  I could go on, but you get the idea. We were two very different people, and yet we worked together quite well and found it easy to be friends.

And this story is just one example of the many times my life has been enriched by people who are very different from me.  I am white, but the woman whose encouragement gave me the most confidence to write for children is black.  I think deer are among the most beautiful creatures on this earth, but I have friends and relatives who hunt.  I love to read, am terrible at sports and have unbelievably bad math skills, yet the man I married rarely reads, went to college on a sports scholarship and makes his living as an accountant.  And I couldn’t imagine life without him.

I know the current trend is increasingly to “stick with our own kind,” and have nothing to do with those who have different values, different cultures and different beliefs, but I honestly think it is a horrible one.  Sure, we can watch only news shows that reflect our opinions, and we can rage against those who think (and, worst of all vote) differently than we do, and we can “unfriend” all the people on Facebook whose posts we disagree with.  But if we do, the loss is our own.

So many people are worth knowing, if we are brave enough to give them a chance.  When we get close to people who seem different, we often find they have some wonderful qualities mixed in there with the stuff that puts us off.   l don’t know about you, but I have good friends  who voted for Clinton, and I have good friends who voted for Trump.  I didn’t vote for either of those candidates, but you know what?  I still value my friends who did more than words can say.

And whenever I do feel the temptation to “stick with my own kind,” all I have to do is remember my friend and coworker from all those years ago.  Because if I hadn’t gotten to know him, he wouldn’t have been with me on those steps.  And I might not have a daughter at all.martha-at-xmas

54 thoughts on “Get Closer

  1. Your post has a very powerful message for all of us. It is a call for tolerance and open-mindedness. As I am muddling through my senior age, I feel entitled to add that we have to distinguish between the actions that we may not like at all and the person who is so often hidden behind his outward behavior. Thank you, Ann! Any post that prompts us to think and reflect is a good one,

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point, Peter. Often we may not care for how a person is acting, or even what a person is saying, at a particular time, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t like the person as a whole. Often, there is a nice person hidden underneath! Thanks for your comments!

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  2. It’s usually possible to find at least some common ground with most people. The trick is to find out what areas to focus on and what subjects might be safest to avoid, hopefully before some disagreement is accidentally blundered into. I think of some friends as having kind of limited range and other friends as having almost unlimited range. I must say, I only ever met one person with seemingly limitless range and that was disastrous. Soul mates can be intoxicating, enchanting – and very dangerous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have found that my friends fall into those two categories as well. If I’m honest, I’d have to admit that the more I can be myself around someone, the more I tend to value the friendship. But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy and value the friendship of people whose scope is more limited as well. And I’ve never thought about it before, but your point about limitless range is a good one. Then there is no checks and balances which are essential in any relationship, and I can see how that could lead to a whole lot of trouble! Thanks, Linda, for your comment…you always make me think!

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  3. Beautiful post! I fully support the idea you have come forward with. I believe staying with own kind is an act of resistance… one should not resist to interact with different people of different cultures and all. Again I would agree with your post, if we resist diversity, the loss is our own. You only know the positives when you make a step forward to it. In my life I have always found and enjoyed the difference of choices between me and my circle, of course we respect each others choices. But such differences never affected my opinions or my love for my friends and all dear ones.
    Best

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  4. The secret to harmony is courtesy and manners.

    We may not approve of someone’s opinions or lifestyle but we still owe them every courtesy and need to remain wise in expressing ourselves. Some may call this hypocrisy, it is not. It is the only way one can live in a truly diverse society.

    These days, too many people misunderstand what diversity is. They too often view it as race, gender, sexuality, and colorful clothes and interesting cuisine. Those things are really rather superficial. When you travel the world and get to know people intimately, it does not take long before you rub up hard against the clash of values. You quickly find quirks of culture that are utterly abhorrent… and that is where courtesy and manners come in.

    It takes practice, it takes discipline, but it is something we have lost and desperately need to regain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! We have simplified and “dumbed down” the concept of diversity to the point where we think if we have friends who are a different color, or a different sexual orientation from ours, we have diversity. But to be able to deal with people whose values and culture are, as you put it, abhorrent to us, in a respectful and courteous manner, now THAT’S embracing diversity! And as you say, it’s not easy.

      When I was in college I worked in the library with another student who was from Africa. I don’t remember exactly which country, but he had very old-fashioned views on the roles of women, and drove me nuts my always questioning my every decision, always double-checking my work (we were supposed to be equals in the job, mind you), to the point where I was finding it very hard to be nice to him. And then one day, the head librarian told us that their student worker budget had been halved, so they could only keep one of us. I was gearing up for battle, getting ready to suggest that each of us could work half time, when the student simply took off his name tag, laid it on the counter, and said with quiet dignity, “And of course it is only right that Ann should be allowed to keep this job.” Then he wished us both well and left.

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  5. So just when I think you’ve written your best post you go and top that with another. I’m not surprised, either by your sensitivity and tolerance or your ability to communicate those feelings so eloquently.
    You’re so right and the story you told has so many layers associated with it. So interesting that a person who more than likely changed your life is someone so different from you. How many others can change our lives if we gave them the opportunity to do so. Just because people have different points of view doesn’t mean they can’t enrich our lives in some ways, if we only give them the opportunity.
    Terrific piece of writing, Ann. It says so much about you as a person. I’m not at all surprised..:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, now it is official: you really are the nicest person I know! Whether it was your upbringing or you were just born that way, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that I really appreciate your comments. I was almost afraid to hit “publish” on this one for fear it would offend people (the names “Clinton” and “Trump” seem equivalent to “sic ’em” these days), but I have been surprised at how people have received it. Thanks, George, for always being so encouraging!!!

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      • Thank you, Ann. That’s kind of you to say. I’m not sure I can live up to that but I appreciate you thinking so..:)
        I’m glad you hit publish and didn’t let what others may think influence your words.

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  6. I agree totally Ann. For me I think it’s been an evolution as I’ve become older, less arrogant, and more open to ideas that challenge my own. This election cycle was striking and bought out the worst in so many. One positive for me was that I learned over the past several months that there are many dear and respected friends and colleagues I have that maintain vastly different views and opinions than I about politics and many social issues that face us today. Many of these people I would trust with my life and family. So go figure that I still hold them dear to my heart and respect them, right?

    Another perspective your post brings to mind is the advice my older son gave my other son (there’re three years apart) when the younger went off to college. My older boy’s advice to his brother was to not just stick with his tribe. To join clubs that don’t include all his friends. Go to events that are outside his current sphere of interest, etc. In other words proactively broaden his thinking and expand his paradigm.

    While I may not always read your posts the day they are published I look forward to them once I do read them and I usually learn a little something about myself.

    Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You said it perfectly! To listen to all the hype, you would believe that anyone who held a different political opinion or world view had to be, by definition, a horrible person. And yet the reality is that we all know, respect, admire and love people who have very different opinions than we do. So why all the hate? It’s not only hurtful, it’s just unnecessary.
      As for your son’s advice to his brother, all I can say is you raised a remarkably smart and open minded young man! Because that’s excellent advice for anyone just starting college, or any other new venture for that matter.
      Thanks so much for your comments, they are always welcome and appreciated. I’m sorry it took me a while to respond to this one, but for some reason it went to my spam. But not to worry, I rescued it and got it on the post where it belongs! Thanks again, and take care!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This post is so touching. I have friends who are from all different walks of life, all different ages and who like very different things. But, we all have common ground somewhere and they all enrich my life in different ways. A lot of my friends can’t figure out why I’m friends with certain other people, but I can’t see their view point. Life is rich and interesting, why should my friends fit one certain type. I’m not one-sided and they shouldn’t be either.

    I love the comment above ‘don’t just stick with your tribe’ it’s so right.

    Such an amazing post, and wonderful comments – Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I have never understood why people think they can only be friends with people who are just like them. It’s so limiting! And I also think it makes it all too easy to see others as “the enemy,” and no good every comes of that. Thank you for your comment!

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  8. Beautiful picture!
    Wonderful story!

    I love diversity. God created the world with such extensive and detailed variety that we’d be cheating ourselves out of so many blessings if we chose to not appreciate them.

    Just look at how beautifully diverse nature is. Our Creator is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My first thought when reading this was thank God she didn’t fall down those stairs(the way you described it was so visual). My second was that we could never get away with having a drink during lunch break nowadays! We’d be fired! But you are absolutely correct that it’s so important to befriend and speak to people from different backgrounds for all the reasons you say. It’s one of the reasons I stay in my town instead of moving to the country like so many of our friends have. My town and my neighborhood especially has families that represent literally every race, different ethnicities within the races, and even a bi-racial and lesbian couple. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks for another great post, Ann!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, those were different times! We didn’t often drink at lunch, but if we did, we weren’t worried about being fired. My friend also smoked, both in the office and at restaurants.
      But I agree, the more diverse we can make our personal circle, the better! And even when we meet people whose values and cultures are truly different, a little bit of respect and courtesy can go a long way towards building bridges. I honestly think on the the scariest things I see in our current situation is how intolerant people are of anyone who thinks differently than they do…
      Thanks, Kim!!!

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