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We’re in the midst of the holiday season, time for coming together lovingly with family and friends. Unfortunately, in the past few years, our society is experiencing ever-increasing division.

We seem to be focusing more and more on our differences. We tend to categorize ourselves with labels: race, culture, gender, and these days, political party. Friends are less candid in discussing their opinions. Some long-term relationships have ended because of the negative side of differences. There are relatives missing from the holiday dinner table, and some whose presence sparks a strained atmosphere.

At the point where we say my label is right and yours is wrong, we take a step backwards, and set into motion that which separates us. But if you think about it, we have more points of similarity. Although I identify as a Black female, I have the blood of five different cultures coursing through my veins. Our family friends were from a potpourri of heritages. Differences can be beautiful, intriguing, magical. It is only when they are judged as bad, less than, that they interfere with positive interaction.

Perhaps it’s time to identify and focus on the similarities shared by folks of diverse backgrounds and opinions. In the words of author Miles McPherson, through similarities, we can “be bridge builders instead of wall builders.”

As I see it, love is at the top of the list of similarities, both giving and receiving. From my perspective all identified groups share the need for love: love of parents, spouse, partners, children and friends. In our daily encounter with people different from ourselves, why not let love, not ridicule, be the doorway to communication.

Good health is another similarity. Lying in ICU, following a car crash, the Democrat doesn’t say, “Make sure that’s not Republican blood you’re pumping into me.”

An adequate home, a good job, and food on the table. Similarities we can easily focus on when meeting folks of diverse groups. Who among us doesn’t want those blessings?

Receiving the best education they can get, no matter the religion or culture they come from. On college campuses there is a diverse population with a similar goal. They should not have to fear being murdered in the process.

Freedom, a similarity shared by all of those living, or aspiring to live in our country.

Whether it be in a war zone, or on the streets of our own city or town; tears shed, a heart broken. Similarities shared by any parent holding a dead child in their arms.

Perhaps the next time we encounter someone different from ourselves, someone who we’re tempted to condemn, we can, instead focus on the qualities we share, and move closer together in the spirit of harmony and peace.   

written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor Resident Blogger
Author of “You Can Go Home Again

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