“I don’t recognize the country that I love.”

I have heard this statement many times, from people on the left and the right, and I certainly feel it myself. Granted, we all have different reasons for this sentiment, but it does lead one to ask: What are we going to do about it?

I see all kinds of responses. There is increased tribalism, where we fret and vent within our own circles. There is withdrawal from the news because it becomes too draining to follow. And there is resistance and protest, which did not start in the Trump presidency, but long before.

In the short term, all of these responses seem to make sense because they are soothing and/or energizing in some way. They give us a sense that we have control over our lives. But in the long term, they significantly weaken the bonds that make a society a cohesive, functioning unit because they separate us.

Here’s a radical thought:

How about engaging with each other with the empathy that we tend to reserve only for those who think as we do?

Take a risk. Reach out to someone who sees the world differently than you do and have a cup of coffee together. Ask what s/he is feeling and thinking, and why. Peel back the layers to find out what lies underneath; don’t assume you know. Inquire with open-ended questions. Let go of your desire to persuade, to opine, to be heard. In this moment, just inquire, listen, and keep inquiring with curiosity until you understand the other.

This is where our collective power lies. Engaging with difference® is how we can shape the world we live in to include each other. It is how we ensure that we continue to live in a country of laws and compassion. We cannot survive with just laws or just compassion; we need both. And we need each other.

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