Last week I reminded you that I don’t like New Years’ Resolutions—they’re too big and sweeping, and they leave us all feeling like failures by mid-January. But (drum roll, please) today I have decided to go completely back on my word and set a TOTAL LIFETIME GOAL. Yessir, I am going to do something and do it FOREVER. I invite you to join me.
I’m going to look for stuff I have in common, with uncommon people. I’ve done it a good bit, but not consistently. And the world is too filled with hasty assumptions, judgments, and a growing “us versus them” mentality, so this is my one-person effort to throw back one starfish and erase the walls that divide us. Even mix metaphors, if I have to.
Here’s what prompted my turnaround: We’ve all done it. We’ve met someone totally different than us, and assumed there’s no way we can become friends. Maybe you’re a young hipster and you see a middle-aged, heavy woman on the bus. “Nope,” you think, “she’s not in my circle.” But maybe you both read music and both like Yo-Yo Ma.
Maybe she loves the same dinosaurs or planets or animals that you do. Maybe you both have a neighbor with a barking dog, and you wish you knew how to solve the problem. Maybe she makes your favorite pie! The sky’s the limit on how much you could have in common with this stranger.
And that’s just it—we can take any person on this planet, and find more in common with them than not, if we just try. It’s too easy to size someone up and dismiss them based on their appearance, their politics, or their religion.
Last week I was in a shopping mall and saw a young guy in line behind me holding a sleepy little pit bull puppy. (First irony of the New Year-- he's wearing an "Us versus Them" shirt.) I doubt I resemble many of his close friends, and he doesn’t resemble many of mine. But my daughter asked if she could take a picture of the puppy and soon we were all cooing over this tiny creature. “I love the little freckles on his nose,” I said, thinking that was my favorite thing. And then the guy said, “That’s my favorite part.” And there we were, grinning at each other with a shared favorite thing—those adorable little speckles.
One time I was at a farmer’s market wanting to buy some gorgeous pastries, but they all contained walnuts—the one thing I’m allergic to. I sighed and an old man said, “You allergic to walnuts?” I nodded. “Me too,” he said. And soon we were sharing recipes and talking about our children.
Remember the movie, Heaven Can Wait, where Warren Beatty's butler relays a conversation about how disappointed they both are when the marshmallows in their hot chocolate are all gone? It doesn’t matter if you’re the zillionaire or the stable boy, we all want more marshmallows.
So my new approach is consciously to seek common ground, even with people who dismiss me at a glance, or who may not think we can connect. We’re all human beings, we will always have more in common than not, and I plan to find it whenever I can.
Hey—maybe you can share some of the cool stuff you’ll learn when you visit my YouTube Mom channel here—it’s loaded with short videos that teach hundreds of life skills, tricks, and tips—check ‘em out!