One of my best friends was preparing for surgery in a couple days. Another friend organized a Zoom call to pray for her. There were four of us on the call, each in a different time zone.
We ended up praying at the end of our—um, four hour Zoom call.
Yes, you read that correctly. Four hours.
The three of them have been in contact more often than I have. We all know each other through a common employer years ago, and every pair of us have had some sort of adventure together through the years. But we lead different lives. We have different backgrounds. Our communities look different. Our jobs are different. Our families are different.
We are different, yet we are similar. We’ve lived commonalities, and we respect each other. And during that four hour call, we chatted about so much that could have divided us. We discussed racial inequalities, immigration, national leadership, COVID measures, ministry opportunities, church failings, gender identity and sexual orientation, and Hamilton. (After all, it was a mere days after Hamilton was available on Disney+ and a couple of us had been obsessed long before that.)
We didn’t agree on everything, but we didn’t stumble in our conversations. We engaged and listened. I enjoyed their perspectives. I wanted to hear more. We didn’t draw lines in the sand. We simply shared.
In a time when it’s commonplace to let differences divide us, it’s refreshing to remember differences can draw us together. We can always find something we have in common with someone else, but it seems like we look for the opposite. We might have common ground with someone, but then we start asking more specific questions. “Well, do you believe this?” “What do you think of that?” “How are you responding to such-and-such?” And when the person’s response differs from ours, we step back and declare, “Whoa! We are not on the same page, and I just don’t get you!”
Conversations can reveal different perspectives and experiences, and when we’re open to listening with respect, we all grow. We might not change our core beliefs, but we can develop more understanding and compassion. We listen to more voices, and we gain perspective to help us in future interactions. Or we listen to more voices and become hardened to anything contrary to what we know and want.
I’m thankful for friends, acquaintances, and strangers who invite me to open my heart and mind. I want to be that kind of friend, acquaintance, and stranger.
What kind of friend, acquaintance, and stranger do you want to be?