I’ve had the opportunity to travel to 40 of the US’s 50 states. More if you count Puerto Rico. I have traveled across the country via plane, motorhome and car. I’ve driven from Texas to Idaho, Arizona to Texas (don’t recommend that one), Texas to Florida and back (with a carload of kids), Connecticut to Texas, Idaho to Oregon and Washington, Colorado to Arizona and probably made ruts in the road between Texas and my families’ homes in Colorado.
I’ve visited Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, China and many tropical destinations.
Pressing my head against the window of the plane (pre-Covid, not sure I will do that again) I look down at the ground below me in wonder. It seems whether I am flying over Texas, Pennsylvania, California or even parts of Colorado, the view is the same. A patchwork of land sectioned by roads driven by people. Houses dot the landscape – sometimes the houses are lined up next to each other and sometimes they are spread out. From the air, I can’t tell if the houses are brick or siding, two bedrooms or four, or carpeted or tiled. What I can tell from the air is the homes are shelter for people who care about a lot of the same things I care about – family, friends, pets, their jobs…and dinner.
As I have traveled and met people of different ages, religions, backgrounds and languages I am amazed at how similar we are in many of our longings and desires. We want love, a happy life and…food. We like to talk about our families whether it be our children, parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents.
I have sat on a beach and talked to Alvin, a bartender, and heard his dreams of college and running his own business.
I have listened to an interpreter in China (with a Scottish accent since that is where she went to learn English) talk about the loss her family had suffered and how she was working to help support them.
In the Northeast where people are supposed to be rude, I’ve pushed a shopping cart with huge moving boxes blowing my cart about as I tried to steer it to my car and had a man offer to help me load my car – twice.
If you listen to the news, you might believe we are a country of mean, hateful people. That is not my experience. Though I know there are plenty of bad eggs, for the most part, the basket of America is filled with kind, generous, giving, hard-working people.
A few weeks ago, I saw the goodness of our country at work. A gal I don’t know posted a need for used shoes on Facebook. Her nearly 80 year-old parents had a goal to collect 10,000 pair of shoes for an organization whose mission is help the impoverished by turning shoes and clothing into opportunity. I posted a call for shoes in my neighborhood Facebook group and on my personal page.
I was out of town when people started to message me they were dropping off shoes so I asked my husband to put a box on the porch. When I came home the next day, I couldn’t believe the pile of shoes. I moved the shoes into the garage and the next day there was another large pile of shoes. And the next day.
In less than three days’ time, over 200 pair of nice used shoes were collected!
If you ask, people will give.
Don’t let the talking heads tell you we aren’t a compassionate country. Just because we don’t agree with how to share or show our compassion, does not really mean we lack it. We might have differences in that regard but I don’t know any hateful people. I know they are out there (because I watch the news) but I don’t know any personally. I know a lot of people who offer love and compassion.
I am friends with people of different races, religions, political views and backgrounds. Sometimes, it’s those differences that enhance our friendships.
Last week, I was walking through the Valley Forge Historical Park thinking about the good in America and how many of us do have a lot in common when I noticed two women sitting on a bench eating their lunch and gabbing. As I passed them, it triggered a memory of another bench of women friends. The similarities put an exclamation on my thoughts.
While visiting a small town in Italy, I saw 5 women sitting in a row on a bench. They were talking – sometimes more than one woman was talking at once. One woman was knitting and the woman next to her was holding her yarn for her. For the next two days, every time we passed that bench, the women were there. I imagine the women were talking about things like, family, marriage and…what’s for dinner.
I asked the women on my walk if I could snap a pic of them for my blog. I told them I was writing a piece about wherever I go, I find people are very much the same. One of the gals said, “You know? I was just telling my friend that we are all basically married to the same man.”
Different yet the same.
If your still reading, can I ask you a favor? Will you join me in looking for the things we have in common with those around us and not the differences? Can you join me in ignoring the divisive rhetoric blaring and bombarding us everyday?
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19
Practically, when we hear things that make us feel our country is divided, let’s do our part to change the message – smile at the person in the grocery store who doesn’t look like you, take your neighbor who worships different than you a loaf of banana bread, talk to the person on the bus or plane for a minute before putting in your earpods. Let’s all work to focus on the good and not the bad.