Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The kind of unity I hope for

Photo by Vinoth Chandar

She is the one who brings it up, cautiously and a little abruptly. “For a long time I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”

It is a controversial, hot-button issue, rife with capacity to divide us,  make us angry, make us misunderstand. We love each other but we know we will disagree.

“Okay,” I say, “let’s go. Let’s do this.”

We speak earnest and thoughtful and slow. I say my piece. She says hers.

We are both a little disappointed, that we cannot be fully united in this.

We are both a little grateful, that we can have this conversation in love and mutual respect.


Later that evening I think how much I admire her and the way she spoke. I think, what if everyone could speak about these things with such grace, such compassion, such genuine love. How would the world be different then.

Perhaps it would be different in Washington. Different in our family. Different on Sunday morning. Different in blogs and twitter feeds and internet rants. Different, even, in Gaza.

It would not be perfect. I would still be angry at the fracking, you would be angry about the children at the border. Someone would still be crying over the Israeli who lost her only son, someone else over the boy on the beach in Gaza, someone else over the sister who was raped, someone else over the light of the unborn child put out.

But if we could talk, perhaps we could share. Weep with those who weep. Perhaps, with our hushed tones, and chances to listen, and sighing rather than raging at the imperfection of our understanding of the world and each other, we could be friends.

The holdup, maybe, is that you are wounded. You cannot hear my piece without hearing the tone of those who have hurt you before. Maybe you are thick-skinned from all the yelling and you cannot soften the body to listen. Maybe you are scared of losing your place at the table, or furious that you’ve never had a place. Maybe we are, all of us, all of these things. Maybe we just need to remember we’re not the only one.

Telling and listening to the real talk is not easy. It requires us to gently cup the pain in the soul, in the body, and bear it to someone else. I don’t know much about pain, except that some people are very brave, to tell and listen openly, holding their pain like a sacred temple.


There are many paths that would have been easier. Not being friends, for example. Or being the kind that don’t talk about those things. Or talking louder and more sarcastic and exasperated.

But then if that were the case, I think how much I would be missing, how much less I would be, how empty my inner sanctuary would be—that place where I hold my passion and pain and the soft-intoned stories of all the people who are really, when we get down to it, a lot like me.

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