Monday, May 11, 2009

Building a community by seeing "the other"

Originally Posted on the Common Threads blog
Centre Daily Times, May 31, 2007

Since I wrote my last blog on “mixing-it-up” and embracing more diverse people in our lives, I have been receiving feedback on how most of us do very little of it in our lives.

As I was thinking of practical ways of “mixing-it-up,” an article in Monday’s CDT, with the title, “Bill Clinton: Focus on similarities,” caught my attention. Since this is the theme of my column, Common Threads, and the focus of all my writing efforts – I was of course interested. I went to Middlebury College’s website, where a video of the speech is posted, and an article gives more details - the full version is worth accessing.

Former President Clinton asked the graduates to remember the importance of community - a best community being one that provides a broadly shared chance to participate, a sense of responsibility and a sense of belonging.

His speech had some other messages -
“Build community by focusing on the similarities among humans rather than differences.”

“The bigotry you have to work hard to avoid is not seeing everyone else.”

“While our differences may make life more interesting, our common humanity matters more. So much of the world’s difficulties today are rooted in the rejection of that simple premise.”

And in today’s CDT, I see that a local task force on civility may be formed to figure out how we can get along better with each other and behave courteously to one another. I suggest that it would help if we see and acknowledge our common humanity first, and also the existence of other points of view.

Each of us can take little steps. Say hello to a new person, learn another’s name, get to know a neighbor, try a new experience with people who are different than you in some way, pick up a new book, try a new food, arrange a playdate for your child with someone who is different… the ideas are endless. With each experience, we will see our commonality, and that our strengths and weaknesses are universal.

Another step we can take is to share our “mix-it-up” ideas with each other. So please send in your comments and experiences, and also your ideas on what we can do, to create a true, caring community – where we build on our common humanity. Perhaps this blog and your responses could be the catalyst, to speed up the process in Centre County.

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