Does it have to be them and us?
Has the day of respectfully listening to a different opinion gone by the wayside? As an octogenarian, I cannot remember a time when there is so little respect for the opinion of others, and so little interest in open-minded conversation. So much division! So much shouting! So much anger!
This is serious stuff, and we’re going to have to give it some serious thought.
I was seriously offended back in the 1960s when I covered a Spring Lake Board of Education meeting. As a local reporter, I asked a couple of pointed questions. A board member later chastised me implying that I was an enemy and certainly not appreciated. Later, however, cooler heads prevailed. We talked, and it became apparent that we had common goals. It was an honor for Marcia and me to be invited to a private social event hosted by the same man at a later date.
Many years later, while selling church organs, I had an unpleasant experience with the assistant pastor of a mega church. They were erecting a new structure, and selling a big instrument for a prominent new building in town would have been a huge “plus” for me. Alas, I learned that the church had decided on another brand without giving me an opportunity to make a presentation. The organ committee had gone, without my knowledge, to a church using one of our older models and decided they didn’t like our product. To say that I was upset would be an understatement, but I quietly advised this person that the organ heard by his committee bore no resemblance to the instruments I was selling. He wasn’t listening, wasn’t buying it, and promptly ended the conversation.
Later the same day, though, his Christian principles rose to the surface, and he called back. Cooler heads prevailed. I explained our situation, and suggested that I be given one chance. I would invite the committee to hear one of our instruments, loaned out for a choral group’s recording session. If the committee agreed that it was a worthy instrument, we would talk. If not, their earlier decision would stand.
We shook hands. The committee came to the recording session. I got the deal.
These things are on my mind as I prepare a speech for next May, when I will be addressing a chapter of the State Bar of Michigan. Must we always have so much division? As an advocate for prisoners, I get so tired of hearing prosecution claims that they are fighting for the rights of crime victims, and that thugs must remain behind bars. Defenders, on the other hand, say many prisoners are victims of injustice and deserve to be heard.
Truth be told: We’re all in this together. It’s past time to politely listen to all sides with respect and open minds. There are legitimate and valid opinions on both sides.
As Fr. Greg Boyle says: “There
is no 'them' and 'us.' There is only us!”
It’s time to listen. To talk. Not shout.