The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Similarities Among the Differences

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 02, 2016

I am a tea person. I've also been known to drink the occasional coffee (I'm partial to lattes). I know some tea drinkers who never touch coffee and others who wouldn't be caught dead with a tea.

Coffee and tea are different, but they're on the same continuum of hot, flavourful drinks enjoyed the world over. People are different too, but they're all on the same continuum of human.

I think that gets forgotten sometimes.

I was running around on appointments before the holidays when a fellow asked me for some change for food the other day. I checked to make sure I had time, then offered to buy him lunch instead. He accepted. During our chat I found there really wasn't much separating us. We both want better lives for ourselves. We struggle on how to get to that point. We share mutual wants and needs. At the moment, he's struggling. I've struggled too. Many of us have.

Sometimes it's harder to relate to people who hold views different to ours. Those challenges require more energy from us, but not in the way energy is usually spent. We see it on social media every day where people with different viewpoints are expending great amounts of energy to beat down, belittle and otherwise vilify "the other". Whether the issue is immigration or pollution (or anything else for that matter), it sometimes seems there are two solitudes: one side is absolutely right and the other side is unequivocally wrong.

The truth is almost always somewhere between the two viewpoints. Instead of creating conflict, it is probably better if we try to understand why "the other" feels the way they do. Starting from a place of respect is the foundation should be the goal, even when "the other" is saying things we find reprehensible. Even if we don't agree, we should understand why others believe the things they do. With that understanding, we can work on ways to live together in harmony.

Expending energy to be patient and understanding, to listen respectfully and to communicate clearly is more work than yelling back at people who you don't agree with. It's more work, but this is the growth we require within ourselves and within our communities for us to create a better life for everyone.

I don't need to ban coffee for me to be comfortable as a tea drinker. I need to understand why the coffee drinker prefers their hot water passed over roasted, ground beans over my hot water infused with the essence of steamed and dried leaves. Hopefully that understanding leads to a realization that the coffee drinker is not evil and that my morning drink is but one of many acceptable ways to start my day.

Here's hoping for a future of shared understanding and growth.


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