How about we get this out of the way right off the bat? I don't care which side of the fence you're on, this election season is depressing. It's easy to feel discouraged about so many things, mankind being high on the list.
I wrote last week about a recent long weekend spent with friends. Friends we made while living in the UK. Friends who, other than the commonality of life in England, are different from us in a good many ways. There were seven couples in total. Fourteen individuals with varying backgrounds, beliefs, political persuasions, nationalities, and life experiences.
A true collection of hearts, minds, and opinions and I love every single one of them. I feel like we're a snapshot of something many people thought was gone for good given the angry times in which we live. I mean there's a whole host of issues where we're not on the same page, a few where we're likely polar opposites.
In 2016 it feels almost impossible to not only get along with, but also enjoy friendships with people who hold opinions contrary to our own, but ya'll...
I am here to tell you it is very, very possible.
We spent four completely lovely days living in the same house without conflict, tension or a cross word spoken between us. I actually think it boils down to something pretty simple...good manners.
We didn't used to have to talk about good manners because people had them. Today? Not so much, at least not online. People feel justified saying (or sharing) just about anything they want, then become offended when someone disagrees or suggests an alternative point of view. And the way we disagree is as coarse as coarse can be.
After our weekend together did anyone change their mind about who they're voting for in the next election? I don't think so. But we did stand together and admire the immense beauty of the Smoky Mountains. We discussed books, boats, cars, home builds, fine wines, moves, jobs, grown children, grandchildren, fly fishing, travel destinations, great hotels, and interesting cities around the world.
We begged our hosts to share recipes and give us the inside scoop on what it's really like to be Innkeepers, then sat side by side as 1000 jigsaw puzzle pieces were put into place. We introduced our Canadian friends to the awesomeness of chicken fried steak, cheesy grits, and biscuits and gravy.
We steered mostly clear of politics, because politics are a HOT! button and why do we feel like we've got to constantly be pushing the HOT! button??? There were some quiet conversations that naturally developed over a pint of beer or a steaming cup of coffee, but isn't that where those conversations work best?
Face to face with a real live person? Considering your words because you see the impact those words have on that person sitting across the table from you, or next to you on the couch, or beside you in the car?
There's real back and forth in these settings, and you can determine pretty quickly if you've been heard or misunderstood. In person we correct false assumptions before they ignite and blow up a relationship. We recognize that passion exists on all sides of an issue. We take note of body language and furrowed brows, adjusting our tone and posture because we care about these people. They're not faceless beings behind a computer screen. They're people in our actual life.
There's no name calling, no scolding, no lecturing which in my mind is what so much of social media has become. I think the intent (bringing people together) was originally a good one, but the reality has morphed into something else entirely. Social media has polarized us, made us run into our collective camps and batten down the hatches.
I can only speak from what I know first hand, but I for one am grateful that not all of my friends are carbon copies of me. People whose lives are different than mine are interesting. They make me curious about the world, and add depth and beauty to what I know.
I'm not saying we don't need friends who think like us, and I do think it's really important to have friends in our lives who share our faith. Friends who will pray for us, encourage us, speak truth into our lives when truth needs speaking.
I think it's also important to have friends in our lives who see the world and it's many problems from a vantage point that's not exactly like our own. Maybe they were raised outside of America, or they're of a different political party, but whatever it is they push us to look inward at the beliefs we hold dear and to know why it is we hold them.
Real people keep us real.
It's easy to look at the big picture and feel discouraged about the world as it is today. I tell my girls to keep watching for the many deep pockets of love and kindness that most definitely still exist.
...do a real life search instead.