In our book, “The Story of Kennett- Shaping the Future One Child at a Time”, Joan Holliday captured Kennett’s practice of Bridging, which one reader called “speed dating for volunteers.”
At the March Bridging meeting, which met at the Kendal retirement community, I was moved by one of the Quaker residents, Grayfred Gray, who wanted to bridge with people who would listen to people who did not have the same beliefs. He said that we must truly listen to others not like us and be prepared that they will hold views that are repugnant to our own, even painful to hear.
And I felt that he really had something as there is so much talking at each other and name-calling and so very little listening and understanding.
My second emotion was that Quakers are much better Christians than I am, even though many of them do not consider themselves Christians. The idea of listening to people who call themselves “deplorables,” telling me about how our country was founded by white Christian men for white Christian families; that Muslims are inherently anti-American, and the immigrants (black, and brown skinned people) are invading our country, hurts and frightens me. Then I am angry about the talk of invasion by people coming here for a better life and that the Muslim ban is still in effect.
Moreover, how do you come to grips with the attacks on Mosques and Synagogues during worship? It eats me up with anger.
And, there are consequences to my anger. I am losing two of my closest friends, old Navy buddies, who I roomed with in college. They embrace the idea of being anti-Clinton, a “deplorable.” I believe they feel that I have lost respect for their judgement and they don’t want to hear what I have to say. Your friends are the greatest treasure/resources you have and we need friends who do not think just like we do. This fall I’m going to the 50th anniversary of my four Vietnam deployments to be with men who were there for me during the darkest time of my life. To get you to go you are reminded that 60% of all Vietnam Vets have already died so the window of reunions is closing. But I know that many of the senior officers and enlisted men who could come will be supporters of “my America” before everyone else. What do I say to them? I had better spend most of my time listening.
I hope we can still recognize the facts of science and climate change, the need for global collaboration, world trade and support for all Americans to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Maybe the best friend I can be is one who shows them more of how the world is as I experience it, and not how they should think it should be or are told how it is by some cable news outlet. We all have a sample size of one.
One of the things that helps make Kennett great is we as a community try to deal with the problems. This to some extent keeps us out of the red and blue arguments that Washington DC has to deal with. And it hit home in a Philadelphia newspaper that was attacking the President’s lawyer and calling him a liar. It was a cartoon of Michael Cohen testifying in congress as Pinocchio. However, he was under oath so if he lied he would get more jail time.
The cartoon was attacking the man and not the lies because he was telling the truth. If he was telling lies it would make sense they would attack the lies. If there are lies, we need to challenge them and put them under the light of day, get to the truth. It was said in Mein Kampf; a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth. Let’s focus on getting to the truth before the lie can become the truth.
In listening to my friend Gray, he says as a Quaker he thinks that every person has “that of God in him”. And I believe there is the spark of humanity in each of us too. We can listen for that piece of each of us which is divine.
I have started to meet with members of the community that may be, as I see it, “less progressive” than I am. My experience has been rather positive as we are talking about the local problems for an hour without ever having to argue unconstructively and actually gaining common ground on working towards a better Kennett. I want to spend more time listening and less time judging.
I want to use what Kennett has taught me in how a great community works together for the good of all of its people and hopefully share it so others can learn from this great experiment in community. I will listen more.