Everyone knows that community in America has drastically changed over the last 25+ years. I ran wild in the streets of Marengo as a child, or so I thought. I know now, and was sometimes taught then that a community was raising me. People all over town were paying attention to what we were up to, and because my parents’ number was in a phonebook, sometimes they knew when I had been up to no good. Today, children are placed in protective services because they are allowed to walk to parks alone ~ free-range parents. The range is only free because many communities are not communities at all. Some of my friends still live in communities where their kids go play and the community is intact and paying attention.
Today we can have a sense of satisfaction in relationships and community without meeting any of our neighbors. We can like and then dislike - friend and then unfriend - people because of a comment without ever hearing or asking their story or reasons for thoughts or beliefs. We can post terrible comments or put people out of our lives completely without them even knowing it.
Susan and I listened to an “On Being” podcast as a community activity this week. Something that resonated with me in the conversation was that it is really difficult to demonize somebody for their point of view if we have looked them in the eyes and heard their story in person. But to get to the story behind a point we disagree with, we have to stem our impulse to argue our position right away and ask them why. The misconception these days seems to be that if you give someone the chance to talk you are agreeing or validating their point. I remember this being a part that irked me during recent presidential elections when a presidential candidate said he would sit at the table with leaders of nations we had sanctions against. How can we strive for more peace and understanding in this world without first having a conversation to put context, humanity, and at least one face to ideas we disagree with.