If we listen, we find common ground

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It’s Tuesday morning and it is a beautiful morning. The sky is October blue and there is a cool, light breeze ruffling the trees.

It’s a gorgeous day and I’m sitting at my bedroom window begging my muse to send me inspiration so I can write a column. Nothing is happening.

In my head, I’m scrolling through all the things going on in the world. Topping the list is the horrible shooting in Las Vegas, the senseless loss of innocent lives. And, there is more sad news if you read about Puerto Rica and refugees in other parts of the world drowning as they try to escape danger.

If I stay with those thoughts, I don’t see the beauty outside my window. But is it okay not to not think about the suffering? I don’t have an answer for why we humans keep hurting each other.

“I’m going outside and look at the sky for a while,” I tell my sleeping cat.

As I walk around touching my plants, checking to see if they need a drink of water, a van stops at the end of my driveway. Two men, a young one and an older one, get out and walk toward me.

I know immediately they are most likely from a church and are here to give me a message. Today, I don’t feel like hearing a message. Today, I feel like arguing with anyone who wants to tell me they have answers to life’s big questions.

Unfortunately, that is what I do. I do not listen because I don’t want to hear how awful and sinful the world is. I don’t want to hear scripture or to shake my head nicely in agreement when I really don’t agree.

So, I challenge some of what they are saying. Again, I’m not listening. I am engaging in the exact opposite of listening.

The older man quickly loses patience with me and with barely concealed irritation bordering on anger, he returns to the vehicle. The younger man stays and we continue to talk.

He has a niceness about him and I start listening. I’m pretty sure he is listening to me too. No, I don’t agree with everything he says. He’s being nice, but probably not “all in” with much of what I’m expressing.

However, somewhere in the midst of our conversation, we find common ground. We both agree that the world needs more love and that practicing forgiveness is difficult, but we acknowledge that all great spiritual teachings tell us to practice it.

We agree there is a time to speak and a time to listen, a time to voice our prayers and a time for quiet so we can hear. There is no argument between us that our world needs more kindness.

After they leave, I think, “There is your inspiration for this week’s column.”

It is not easy to look at the sadness and unspeakable acts of cruelty that make up the headlines. It’s easy to blame and to judge and to find fault with everyone and everything that is different from how we think, feel, and believe.

We can argue, like I did, to try to make ourselves feel better about how we see the world. We can decide “they” are the problem because we don’t come from the same race, or religion or culture etc.

Or, we can listen to each other. We can try to find common ground, some good thing, in ways of thinking that are different from ours. This, for me, is a challenging practice because I’m human and Lord have mercy, I want to be right.

I hugged the young man before he left. No, I don’t believe everything he believes. He doesn’t completely go along with the way I think.

But even in our differences, we want the same things. We want a world that is kinder. We want less suffering for ourselves and for all beings everywhere.

On this beautiful Tuesday morning, that gives me hope.


Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.