On Thursday afternoon, after a full day of calls and zoom meetings, I pulled on my sneakers and set out for a sunset walk in the neighborhood. I came to the reservoir near our home and stopped to talk with three fishermen who show up every afternoon like clockwork.
One is an elderly man who wears a faded skipper’s cap. Another, about my age, is usually bundled up against the cold. The third one, a younger man, is often dressed in just a t-shirt.
How’s the fishing going, I asked as I usually do when I walk by. “Nothing,” said my bundled friend, “we can’t seem to catch a break today.”
I stopped for a while to enjoy a little conversation, talking about the shifting water levels in the reservoir, the sound of swan’s wings flapping overhead, and how much we were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.
Then the conversation turned to the election.
It didn’t take long to figure out that we all had different opinions on a variety of issues… and that we were afraid, each one of us, of losing something near and dear.
For the next twenty minutes we touched on many topics – taxes, guns, climate change, protests, and the fear of violence with a presidential change. I like these guys very much and while I could feel our collective defenses rise up at first, it didn’t take long for an opening to appear.
One man – the younger one – commented on how painful it’s been to see such divisiveness on Facebook. “You can’t share anything anymore without someone shutting you down,” he exclaimed.
His comment was heartfelt and vulnerable and embedded in his words was a desire to feel heard and understood. I felt my defensiveness soften and I started to listen more deeply. And carefully. As the conversation continued, I searched for shared desires. I watched as compassion overruled my fear and righteousness.
And I remembered my humanity. Our humanity.
Towards the end of our visit, we circled back to the land and how much we appreciated the little piece of heaven laid out before us. “Sure is a beautiful day,” said the skipper as he cast his line back into the water.
Sure is, I replied smiling into the late day sun.
As I bid farewell to make my way home, I felt good about our exchange. These men were respectful and thoughtful in the way they received my perspective.
Just as I was about to leave, the younger man stood up from his chair, stretched side-to-side, and said, “I pray we learn to listen to each other so we can heal.”
I stopped and turned toward him, touched once again by his vulnerability. Now there you go, I said as I looked him squarely in the eyes, we’ve just found common ground. I’ll pray right alongside you.
He smiled and sat back down and I went on my way holding tight to our mandate. A shared intention for healing is a great starting point for any transition and change.