While walking on a local lake (’tis the season for walking on water!), an ice fisherman approaches me on his four-wheeler. He stops to visit for a bit and shares with me that he chose to move away from the city because he did not like all the people not from Minnesota living there.
I reflect with genuine curiosity, “you don’t like people not from Minnesota living in Minnesota?”
I wish to clarify what he means. Love remains the core tenet within my faith tradition and this involves welcoming strangers.
He responds that he means the people from certain countries outside of the United States.
I am naturally curious about why people think the way they think or say the things they say.
In the beginning, I mostly listen.
I learn he served in the military. We discover that he and my youngest brother served around the same time in some of the same operations.
The ice fisherman believes that people who move here from outside the U.S. do not work. I share the places where I do see immigrants working.
He makes further remarks about people unlike him. He speaks against Black Lives Matter, and how he took it upon himself as a private citizen to break up protesting.
Knowing people who protested, I share about protesters I know expressing their hurt and pain by marching and carrying signs expressing that their lives matter too.
I ask if he thinks folks are saying that only black lives matter. I ask if he is comfortable with blue lives matter signs. I ask if those signs mean that only blue lives matter.
I share a bit about my mediation experiences, and folks typically telling me they wish to be seen as fully human.
The ice fisherman and I talk further.
I ask questions to understand and acknowledge what I hear.
He shares his thoughts and experiences.
I share some of my thoughts and experiences.
He and I see some things very differently.
I acknowledge what he says.
I tell him I believe that this is how how we create peace…by engaging in respectful conversations with the folks whom we disagree.
I am not sure that he fully realizes I disagree with him until I use the word “disagree.”
Throughout the conversation, my tone of voice and body language reflect compassion and curiosity.
I think back to times where I use the words, “I disagree” earlier in conversations.
I miss opportunities to connect and understand when doing so.
The ice fisherman and I exchange pleasantries, smile, and wave farewell.
After all, above all, we are called to love one another.
When will you welcome a stranger into your home or community?
Where will you engage in respectful conversations even if you disagree?
With whom will you share your love this holiday, and every day?