5.25.2010

Not So Different After All

There's a mom in our homeschool play group I've really connected with during our Friday afternoon park days. She is an accomplished photographer, a warm and gentle mother, and she's genuinely interested in people. We have conversations that go beyond the surface of things, beyond the weather, our weekend plans, what we're cooking for dinner. She listens, it seems to me, without judgment. And I love to hear her say, "Me too!", when she discovers something we have in common. It's so easy and comfortable to be around her.

dandelion, two ways

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.

21 comments:

  1. Yes.

    I finished reading The Help today (have you read it?) and here's the quote I copied into my journal -- it's something one of the main characters is wondering to herself:

    "Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."

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  2. Well said - and love the photo. Sorry I missed your email yesterday. I got home way - way too late. Did I say that I loved the photo - it's just so darn pretty and fits this post so darn well.

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  3. So nice when u find people like that! Also cure pic!

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  4. What a lovely post. It reminds me of my experience as a young social worker, taking a job with seriously mentally ill adults who had been recently released from the Montana state hospital. I really doubted that I would like the job (it paid well!) and even felt a little fearful about it. It took about two hours for me to realize that people are a lot more alike than they are different. It was a great job and I really hold that knowledge in my heart as I go about my life.

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  5. Love this. Thank you. I have a hard time opening up. This is a lovely reminder!

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  6. Its funny - this is a subject that I have been mulling over today. Yesterday there was a phone in on the radio about 'Loneliness' and is modern life making it harder to connect? I found I had real mixed feelings - Yes, people are out at work and it seems harder and harder to find time to connect BUT at the same time technology allows us to connect with people we might never have met and makes it so easy to keep in touch with those we love that live a long way away. I think your post hits the nail on the head - however busy or isolated or different we feel, a smile and a bit of effort can work wonders. Thank you for adding to my internal debate! :D

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  7. Molly I really like this post. The photo and your thoughtful words are full of truth and peace.
    I decided about a month ago to not end a conversation when older people start one with me (i go to the grocery at granny time 8a.m.). Two cute small kids and it's like a moth to the flame. I would often find myself being polite and talking but ending the conversation with, "you have a nice day" Now, I wait for them to end the conversation, and sometimes it take a while and I almost always have a lovely talk that way.
    From one vinegar lady to another,
    Mandy

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  8. I find that if I open myself up to conversations with people I assume are very different than me, I can almost always find a similarity.

    Conversely, some of my closest friends are people with which I have very little in common. My love of gardening, chickens, "hippy" cleaning solutions and other assorted weirdness makes them chuckle and their love of designer bags and expensive champagne humors me.

    It takes all sorts!

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  9. I find that if I open myself up to conversations with people I assume are very different than me, I can almost always find a similarity.

    Conversely, some of my closest friends are people with which I have very little in common. My love of gardening, chickens, "hippy" cleaning solutions and other assorted weirdness makes them chuckle and their love of designer bags and expensive champagne humors me.

    It takes all sorts!

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  10. This is beautiful in its utter simplicity to life and the people around us. At the dentist's office, the grocery store, or anywhere. We are probably more alike than we are different. An important lesson to ponder.
    Brenda

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  11. I love coming to your space! I love your honesty and willingness to share without fear of judgement. A simple smile can start so many connections. Thanks for the reminder to step out and talk to someone new!

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  12. After such an insightful and compassionate post all I can say is - you're only 33?????

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  13. Great follow up to the last post, Molly. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside now. And not to worry, there are plenty of crazy vinegar ladies out there to befriend. I am sure of it.

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  14. xo.
    and i'm no travolta fan, either, but i could have sung every song on the urban cowbow soundtrack with that young man.

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  15. Molly- you've got it all right. I come into contact with so many people through my days and more often than not I find ways we are very similar than different (even the ones I expect to be very, very different from me).

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  16. I love this blog (I think of you now whenever I pick up shoes around the house).

    We have become very divided in this country. I have friends on both sides of the religious and political spectra and I love them all, they enrich my life.

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  17. I have realized that I have something in common with most everyone even my drunk toothless neighbor, Leroy, despite the fact that I am an oddball of the same sort that you are :)
    However, I tried going the baking soda and cider vinegar route with my hair, and only lasted a week. I couldn't handle smelling like vinegar. It drove me crazy.
    Did you go manual with your camera yet?

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  18. lovely. a quote i recently read in yes! magazine comes to mind:

    “There are those who would quickly love each other if once they were to speak to each other; for when they spoke they would discover that their souls were only separated by phantoms and delusions.”

    ERNEST HELLO
    19th century French philosopher

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  19. Such lovely sentiments! I must admit that my oldest and dearest friend has very different religious and political views than I do, and yet we connect on so many other levels, including the way we parent. Perhaps if we met today instead of 32 years ago we wouldn't get beyond the surface to be friends, but I'm so glad that isn't the case.

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  20. how true ! this makes me happy that in real life i always try to find out if i'm the only crazy vinegar lady... i guess some people reproach it to me -- behind my back) but i have no regret being open (minded), that's what life's (old age !) taught me to do/be.

    and i can't believe your beautiful photos now fit into my laptop screen ! yay !

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  21. I just found your blog and am enjoying reading here. And what a lovely post! I have the same feelings so often, and yet still have a hard time opening my self up in public for a simple conversation or hello. Thanks for the reminder and insight.

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