Last week the people of the United States elected a new president. It was not the president-elect that many of us were expecting or hoping for. Nevertheless, it is the president we are getting. Over and over I head that people were shocked. Or that they never saw it coming. Or that no one they knew voted for him. I read an article after the election suggesting that one of the reasons people were so shocked is because social media allows us to only connect with people who are like us. Social media makes it so easy to have our own views reinforced and forget that there are others whose views might be different.
In the two years that Tom and I have been traveling and living in various places in the United States, we have been greatly blessed to meet people whose views are different from our own. Some of them have been VERY different! A few of them we hope we never meet again.
But, for the most part, we have been able to find common ground with the people we meet. It might be a shared love for the national parks: we are privileged to work everyday with rangers who don’t get paid much but work because they love a park. It might be a common background: one of the other volunteers we worked with over the summer in Minnesota went to Ohio Northern University! It might be a shared political view such as a common stance on healthcare. It might be a similar sense of humor or a shared willingness to explore new places.
My favorite common ground, of course, is finding people who take their faith in Jesus seriously. People who are trying to follow Jesus with each decision of their lives. Believe it or not, people who would agree on most matters of faith can still disagree on matters of politics!
In traveling and working in national parks, the people we meet are diverse in where they live: rural, urban, desert, forest, lake shore. They are ethnically diverse: Ojibwe, black, white, asian, middle-eastern, hispanic. They are western, southern, northern, and eastern. They are old, young, millenials and baby boomers. We have become good friends with people in their 20s and 30s. We have learned to listen and try to understand what they say. Today Wilma mentioned a person who had a hard-to-understand accent. I told Wilma her accent was hard to understand. And she laughed and responded that my accent was hard to understand too!
Sometimes it is hard to understand the accents of the people we meet. Sometimes it is hard to understand their world views. Sometimes it is hard to understand their backgrounds or the experiences they have lived through. But whether we understand them or agree with them, God calls us to walk in compassion and share his love with each person. Each person I meet is loved infinitely by God. Each person is someone of worth. Each person is uniquely created by the hand of God.
If you were shocked by the election results – if you don’t know anyone who voted differently than you – maybe you need to expand the people you meet. We need to stretch ourselves and open ourselves to new experiences. Cultivating diverse friends is one way to do that. We will only be able to find innovative ways to live in unity when we embrace the idea that the United States is made up of all kinds of different people.
Tom and I have learned to love many of the people we meet. Leaving one place for a new location is hard because we are leaving behind friends. But we never know what the next experience will bring and what new – and different – friends we will meet.
Hebrews 10:24: Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.