Not Like Me

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”
Ani DiFranco

I think most people have a lot in common.  We want what’s best for ourselves, our family and (usually) others.  We have different ideas of what’s right and wrong, what makes us safe or what puts us in danger, what’s important and what’s not.

There’s been a lot said lately about how we, as a nation, have become more and more divided.   We listen and read news echoing our own beliefs and views.  We live and socialize with people who think like us.  The Big Sort  talks about how we  separate ourselves into homogenous communities.  This makes us more and more certain and extreme in our beliefs, AND more divided.

We see those who are different from us as the enemy.  StockSnap_OETD13H0YWPeople with a different beliefs, different skin color, different religion and those who just think or live differently from us.  Yet research has backed up the importance of diversity in our schools, businesses and lives.   We cant succeed without inclusion of those “not like us”.

I’m grateful to have worked in an urban area with families with a variety of nationalities, ethnicities, backgrounds and religions. It’s not unusual to see a woman in burka or Hasidic Jewish man who appears to be so different from what I am used to seeing.

When talking to patients and families, guess what.  They all look at me with the same hopes, anticipation, fear or joy. There’s a common thread that’s a wonderful reminder for me.   Many are open to share their dreams and/ or their disappointments.  We can connect on a human level.

So with all of this talk about how we are divided, how can we stay connected as humans?  Here are some of the suggestions

Compassion:  Know that others are trying as hard as you are

Empathy:  Try to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes

Listen:  You don’t always have to be right.   You just might learn something

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I heard an essay by Martin Luther King  as described by David Brooks. “We have to make sure that we don’t fall into the same traps as our own enemies of stereotyping people, generalizing.  He (MLK) said all those people who want to preserve segregation may take a view that we find abhorrent but they are individuals and we should treat them as individual people who are struggling in their lives and not make ..stereotypical generalizations on how evil they all are”

Life is complicated.

Do you have any good ideas for getting along with people who you disagree with or are not like you?

Let me know.  I have no great answers,  just a lot of questions.

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