There are so many things that make people different from one another - religious beliefs, political views, lifestyle choices, socioeconomic status. But I have a hunch that if we looked beyond the surface of these differences, we'd find a lot more in common with one another than we might expect. If we truly listened, suspended judgment and looked for similarities, we'd find a comfortable common ground. The similarities might be small and insignificant, but maybe just enough to diffuse the differences.
I was sitting in the dentist's office this morning while Avery and Aidan had a few small cavities filled (poor things) when a young man with Down Syndrome came in with his caregiver. It didn't take anything more than a smile to start a conversation with them, and as I've said before, I enjoy talking to strangers. A Bob Marley song, Muzak style, was playing. I chuckled and said that it was unusual to hear reggae that way. We started talking about music and I asked the young man what kind of music he liked.
"Mostly soundtracks," he said.
"Me too! I love soundtracks. Do you have any favorites?", I asked.
He named a few I wasn't familiar with, and then he named two of my old favorites: Grease and Urban Cowboy. He really likes John Travolta, and his caregiver said he loves to dance. Yet another thing we have in common (dancing, not Travolta - sorry John.)
Who would have guessed that a 23 year old man with Down Syndrome, wearing a Raider's hat, would have anything in common with a 33 year old mom with two kids, wearing Dansko clogs? It just took a smile followed by a short conversation to bridge the gap.
That conversation was the reminder I needed to look beyond obvious differences and find ways to connect with others. Maybe I don't need to keep my mouth shut after all, especially now that I know I'm not the only "crazy vinegar lady" out there.