Connections and Common Ground: Moving Ahead With Purpose In A Divided World

Bridges are important to our world. They are often used as a way to allow people to travel from one place to another, to connect two geographic areas, especially when there is no natural path for that connection. Our bridges and roads are so important that they often make up a good portion of the work of state and federal legislatures, making sure their upkeep is maintained so that we are safe as citizens when we choose to drive our vehicles across them. They are often accompanied by warning signs, (Bridge ices before road. Weight limit: 2 tons.) and in spite of these safety precautions, the world’s transportation system would not be functional without the use of bridges. They are a critical part of our infrastructure.

Like the physical bridges in our world, we need people who can serve as bridge builders. The current climate of society pushes us constantly to choose a side, and treats the most complex issues as an either/or rather than a both/and. As I reflect on our society’s history and some of the most controversial issues of our time, I recognize the role of bridge builders in moving society forward. Voting Rights, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, and desegregation would not have happened had there not been individuals who felt compelled to build a bridge between people who –thought-they were divided. I am convinced that to move forward in our state, and our country, we need more bridge builders.

Bridge builders help people find what we know we all have: common ground. We were each born, and we will each die. We all smile when we are happy, and we cry when we find ourselves sad. Caged between our ribs is our hearts, and water falls from our eyes when our souls are moved. When we work to find common ground before we work to find where we disagree, we can work together to better our organizations, our society, and more importantly ourselves. Our approach in challenging times is what moves us forward or keeps us stagnant. If we hope to move beyond a society where finding where we are oppositional leads our language, our love, and our lives, we need to adopt a perspective that focuses on finding common ground with others and nourishing our connections with other people as human beings.

If we’ve learned anything from the global pandemic, we know for certain that human beings need each other to thrive. We aren’t wired to be isolated from one another. We NEED connection. Our connections with each other have the power to make us better people who can love, live, and work together in productive ways, and we get to decide who it is we are willing to build connection with; That’s the power of the human condition. It is possible to connect with anyone, we just don’t always choose to do so.

And while I recognize that this is not new information, it certainly appears to be difficult for us to implement. In an age of social media “followers” and “friends,” bandwagon like appeal seems prevalent and our feeds are often echo chambers of people who think, look, love, and believe just like us. This makes it easy to get swept up into an us vs. them mentality, and when scrolling to pass the time becomes habitual, we may subconsciously find ourselves feeding our minds confirmation, rather than learning ways we can connect with others who are not just like us.

So if we are going to make it past this era of divisiveness, we are going to all need to be mindful of our work with others. Are you building bridges or fences in your conversations and interactions, whether they be public or private? Are you finding connections with others or oppositions? Are your words and actions helping to build the social infrastructure of our society, like the bridges in our world? Or are the things you do and say, online and in person, fueling divide and shining a light on differences?

I am convinced, because history tells us so, that there will be some special people who build the bridges we need to move forward. And those are the people who will be remembered in ways that add love and light to the world. I want to be one of those people, whose heart is full of love, that is demonstrated unconditionally, no matter what, because love has no side.

Y’all be easy,

Latoya

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