I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we as a nation seem to be more divided as ever, whether it is issues of Immigration, National Security, Religion, Gun Reform, etc., it feels as though we are incapable of having meaningful conversations with those who may disagree with us. We seem to have divided into tribes and when it comes to those meaningful conversations, we exist in an echo chamber. How can we reach across this divide and begin to rid ourselves of the “us vs. them” mentality? A recent conversation with my sister in Louisiana gave me glimpse into how this might be achieved:
My sister has a neighbor who recently moved in next door. Since they moved in, a few things about the new neighbors have made her increasingly annoyed; among them was a yappy dog and a security light that shines into her bedroom window at night. One day, looking into her backyard, she saw a young boy dangling over her fence, trying to get the attention of one of her dogs. That was the last straw; my sister decided to go right over and air her grievances to the new neighbors.
She called me the next day and embarrassingly related that she discovered her neighbor was a single mom of a fourteen-year-old daughter and had no idea her daughter was leaving the dog out all day. When my sister told her about the security light, she immediately got a stepladder and adjusted the light in another direction. Lastly, my sister found out the young boy leaning over the fence was the son of another neighbor who happened to be visiting. The new neighbor and my sister ended up chatting for a good while and discovered they had things in common and that they were both transplants to the South from the Midwest.
Had my sister never gone over to talk to the neighbor and begun a dialogue, there could have been resentment and a stony silence between them which could have lasted for years. All it took was one short conversation to discover commonalities and bridge a divide. Maybe a bit of the rancor felt between people of differing points of views could be lessened if we took the time to find ways we are alike and discover things we have in common.
This mindset could be adopted by those who represent us politically as well. As State Representative, I will make a point to always “reach over the fence” and have those difficult conversations. I will listen to the concerns of constituents who may have differing views from my own. In addition, to reach across the aisle at the Statehouse and work with members of the other party is vital to good governance as well.
A sitting State Representative I know told me to never forget that I will be representing all the citizens of my district and that every one of their voices deserves to be heard. How much better could our nation be if we were all to “reach over the fence” in some small way?