A few years ago, I passed a young woman and her dog on the sidewalk and the dog jumped up on me to say hello. The young woman apologized, saying she had just begun to foster the dog for a rescue group and hadn’t had a chance to teach it any manners yet. I told her it was fine, that I was a “dog person” myself and didn’t mind an enthusiastic greeting from a friendly dog. She laughed and answered, “All my friends are dog people. I wouldn’t be friends with anyone who wasn’t.” I smiled politely and went on my way, but her words stuck with me.
I love dogs and spend a lot of time in their company, one way or another. I share my home with a dog and I walk shelter dogs in my spare time. Many of my good friends are dog lovers, and several of them also volunteer at the local animal shelter. But I have other friends who aren’t especially fond of dogs. I may believe that a house isn’t truly a home until there’s a dog (or two) wandering around, but I have good friends who wouldn’t dream of sharing their home with a dog. And you know what? I am just as close to them as I am to my dog friends.
I believe it has become far too easy these days to associate only with people who we believe are, if not exactly like us, then at least close enough to be comfortable. We can watch news channels that will always reflect our political views, interact on social media only with those who share our opinions, and live in neighborhoods where most people not only look like us, but are probably also in the same income-bracket. I can’t speak for other religions, but some Christian churches have even begun to align themselves with either conservative or liberal stances based on the sincere belief that not only was Jesus political, but that his politics were exactly the same as theirs. The division of “us” and “them” seems to be growing wider by the day.
Personally, I don’t think all this “sticking with our own kind” is a good thing at all. When we surround ourselves with people who think, look or act mostly the way we do, we are rarely challenged with the idea that perhaps our way isn’t always the right way. When we know that the responses to our opinions will usually be agreement, it’s all too easy to believe that our opinions are actually facts. And if we do this long enough, then it’s easy to forget altogether that there are good people out there who just happen to look at things a tad differently than we do.
It’s easy to live in our own little bubbles, secure in the knowledge that we are right and morally superior to those whose views don’t match ours, and there are times when I’m really tempted to do that. But ultimately, it’s not the way I want to live.
I want to live in the real world, which is populated by people who see things in their own unique way. I want to be in relationship with people who don’t always share my political and religious views because they challenge me to examine just exactly why I believe what I do. I want to have friends who don’t share all my interests, but are willing to tell me about theirs. Mostly, I want to continue to learn and grow as a person. And I don’t think that can happen when I can’t find the courage to burst out of my own little bubble.