Published in the Rains County Leader on September 1, 2020:
When it comes to politics and current events, especially those outside the safety of small-town America, I tend to be of the Pollyanna/ostrich persuasion. If I can’t see the bright side of a situation, I stick my head in the sand, hoping it will go away. It has become difficult if not impossible to find a bright side or to hide from what is going on in our nation today when media of all types is saturated beyond capacity with anger and hatred. The country where I grew up prided itself on being a melting pot where different peoples, styles, theories, etc. were mixed together. But it has become a seething cauldron where anyone who looks, thinks, acts, or votes in any way that is not in lock step with the herd becomes a target of that anger and hatred.
Our pastor’s daughter has a Shi Tzu that has a sweet little face, and every time I see a picture of her on Facebook, I get a case of puppy fever. I mentioned it at Home Group Friday night but added that Kitty would probably not be pleased. Our host said she would get used to the newcomer and they would probably become fast friends. That sent my writer’s brain off on memories of the relationship between my dog Lucky and my son’s cat Miles when they became housemates for a few months. There was a short period of warily getting acquainted, but then they began to play and wrestle and even sleep in a pile of fur and paws. I began to mentally compose an article about successful friendships that develop and endure in spite of, if not because of, differences. As sometimes happens when you’ve written over a thousand blog posts and newspaper columns, the thoughts began to sound familiar, so I did a search. Here’s a column I wrote in April of 2018, and it seems more pertinent today than it did then.
Friendship is not easily defined. The dictionary says a friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, but friendship is more than that. During the ten years when I was single again, I met Mary one night at choir practice. Before the night was over, we had discovered that we were both raised in small towns in west Texas, we were both single again after twenty-three years of marriage, and we both had one child. We had so much in common that we sometimes wondered if I had been switched at birth with her twin sister. We were and still are fast friends. Friendships are often based on common grounds, but sometimes it takes some investigation to discover those grounds.
Years ago I read a book titled Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. It’s not unusual for two friends to write a book together, but Ron was a millionaire art dealer, and Denver was a former victim of modern-day slavery who escaped only to end up living on the streets of Dallas and Fort Worth. Their common ground was Deborah, Ron’s wife whose passion was helping the homeless, and their heart-warming story is well worth reading.
Since David and I have switched from satellite TV to streaming, we’ve watched a lot of YouTube posts. This past weekend, we watched a lot of animal videos. We laughed hysterically at cats who jumped in the air and turned flips after unexpectedly encountering a cucumber on the floor or kittens whose curiosity left them with their heads stuck in a bag or box. My favorites, though, were the ones that showed unusual friendships. Cats and dogs played or napped together, a kitten lay on its back covered with dozens of fuzzy yellow chicks, a momma cat cleaned a bunny – and all without snarling, snapping, or growling. It’s hard to know what common ground brought these critters together, but even if it’s just a common owner, it’s a beautiful model of peaceful coexistence.
Easter weekend is one of my favorite times of year, mostly because of the Resurrection that we celebrate, but also because of the friendly holiday traditions that have developed among some of the local churches. Twenty years ago, W.R. Byrd, Pastor of Prairie Grove Missionary Baptist Church, suggested to several Rains County churches that they meet together on Resurrection Sunday for a Sunrise Service. I don’t know the details, but twenty years later, four area churches still gather each year for worship and breakfast. Each church hosts the service on a rotating basis, and it’s fascinating to see how each congregation differs.
This year we met at Prairie Grove, and as always, there were smiles, handshakes, and many warm hugs among friends who worship together only once or twice a year. As Reverend Byrd welcomed members and guests alike, he reminisced a bit about the past twenty years, and then he mentioned some of our differences. We are from different denominations and traditions, our music and styles of worship are different, we are even from different ethnic backgrounds – but, he went on to say, “the Jesus in me loves the Jesus in you.” What better common ground could there be in a friendship?
Surely if we try hard enough, we can find some of the common ground that brought us together to fight wars, epidemics, and economic disaster throughout history. If not, there’s not enough sand for this ostrich to hide from what lies ahead.