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Find Commonality, Exercise Tolerance – Change The World

finding commonality amidst differences

A few weeks back, I found myself unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight of social media, facing unwelcomed scrutiny and criticism.

Given the number of years of sharing content and experiences with my audience, it was inevitable that I would eventually catch someone’s ire, leading to what felt like a public flogging.

I was initially blindsided by the situation, it took the intervention of someone in my community to bring the matter to my attention. While it stung and for a few beet-red, hot-faced, moments of embarrassment I questioned my very existence; I eventually remembered who I am. Isn’t that nice? Knowing who I am is a gift that has come slowly, with age, and experiences – both good and bad.

When it happened many unhealthy responses popped up at once. Should I respond, apologize, or retaliate? So many choices Yet here’s another gift of aging – patience. The ability to do nothing, immediately. But rather wait to see where feelings land and reason hides.

Triggers From Out Of Nowhere:

Coincidentally, during this tumultuous time, I found myself in Seoul, South Korea, embarking on a journey to the DMZ. The tour guide, a friendly young Korean woman in her early twenties, shared much of the history of her country. I am ashamed to admit that somehow the bulk of what I believed to know about Korea I learned from that 70’s comedy-drama, MASH. 

Moon shared her personal family history with us. Her grandmother had eight children. One day during the Korean War her 10-year-old son never returned home. Never. Her grandmother spent the next 50 looking for her son. After an incredibly expensive, arduous, and painfully litigious process, he was located living in North Korea. To make a terrible story as short and painless as possible – she was able to spend 13 hours, not consecutively, with her then 60-year-old son before her death.

Finding Commonality:

From age to culture to geography – the divisions seem many and egregious. Yet, I felt every moment of that tale in my belly.”

First, I could identify with the young tour guide, growing up with such tales of terror that only those who live the nightmare of dictatorship can truly tell. Secondly, I am a Mama… pure and simple. The idea of having my 10-year-old son walk out the door to only meet him as a 60-year-old man demolishes my being. It is a gut-wrenching unimaginable circumstance for most of us. 

From age to culture to geography – the divisions seem many and egregious. Yet, I felt every moment of that tale in my belly.  I was moved to tears by the profound sense of connection I felt with her grandmother’s plight. 

As I was immersed in this collective human pain with Moon, my recent public social media flogging popped in my brain. At first, it seemed disparate and I was confused about the rush of thoughts. Even now part of me wonders how I dare compare the two? A silly uncomfortable moment of embarrassment versus a lifetime of gut-wrenching, all-consuming pain. Yup, nothing in common.

Finding Commonality Amidst Differences:

Yet somehow, I was stuck thinking about tolerance. The tolerance for and understanding of our shared humanity. We are way more alike than different. It just may take us a moment to see it, to understand that our differences should not be a source of division but rather an opportunity for empathy and connection. 

And yes the weight of the two events are vastly different. Incomparable, agreed. Yet the idea of tolerance ping pongs around in my head. We don’t always have full control over our environment. People make mistakes. People behave horribly at times as well. But we do have self-determination. Why not employ it? 

This ends up being about self-determination, tolerance, and finding our human commonality – in the banal, as well as, the life-threatening moments.”

I got publicly called out because I visibly showed up as different. Different than what another individual believes is the right way or best way. The focus of the callout was how I was not playing by someone else’s rules. Did I make a mistake? Could I have done better? Do I wish I had made a different choice? Yes, yes I do. But my error in judgement is not what this is about.

This ends up being about self-determination, tolerance, and finding our human commonality – in the banal, as well as, the life-threatening moments. At the end of the day, if we take a moment to search for the thread that links us; from the pain of losing a child for a mother or the ease of error-making as humans, or something else, we will fundamentally alter the way we show up for one another. 

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