News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Uniquely united

I think I was in fifth grade when I first heard the phrase: “America is a melting pot.” Being young and somewhat literal, I imagined all these diverse people from varying cultures and ethnicities swirling around in a huge caldron, simmering into a homogenous human stew.

As an adult I’m not so sure I care for that metaphor. Sure, I appreciate the image of a united nation, but the idea of everyone boiling down to a conformity of sameness is unnerving. What does that mean for freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and personal rights? Must they be boiled down and homogenized as well?

I believe we are uniquely created and that it’s our differences that make life interesting. Oh, sure, our differences can be aggravating at times. And recently they’ve felt divisive and sometimes even destructive. But does that lessen the value of individuality? Is that an excuse to challenge, monitor, or even silence opinions that don’t align with the popular mode of the day? As much as I love peace, I don’t want a faux peace if the price is cultural conformity.

I was walking with a good friend the other day — a friend with a differing political perspective — and I happened to mention a book I’d just read about socialism and Antifa.

Maybe I was curious as to her reaction — or just wanted to heat things up since it was cold outside.

When my friend questioned why on earth I would read such a book, I expressed that I like being informed and that I love this country and care about its future.

Not surprisingly, the conversation quickly grew animated.

Was I suggesting she didn’t appreciate those same things? No, of course not, I assured her.

But we continued to banter back and forth a bit.

And to be fair, it wasn’t our first disagreement over something political.

But in the course of walking and talking — sometimes loudly — some listening took place.

Finally, our walk over, we were back at my house. There we sat down by a warming fire and, over a calming glass of wine, we came back to terms. We remembered the things we both agree upon. Like our friendship! And my friend’s favorite mantra (and one that I deeply respect) “love wins.” And we agreed on my mantra (for the day) “the truth sets us free.” Mostly we agreed that, as friends, we love and respect each other, and it’s okay to disagree. We also agreed to keep the conversation going — without judgment. Because that’s what friends do.

I believe that’s what community is meant to do, as well.

Community, by definition, is people united together by region, occupation, interests, goals, etc. Sisters is a unique community in that almost everyone here has come from somewhere else. We are a diverse community of uniquely created individuals with differing backgrounds, cultures, experience, talents, and opinions. But to remain a strong and healthy community we need to be willing to engage and listen and, yes, even disagree sometimes. Hopefully with respect and nonjudgment and grace. Because like my friend’s mantra, love must win. Otherwise we all lose and we are no longer community.

My hope and prayer for the community of Sisters (where my husband and I have invested more than a quarter century of our lifetimes) is that we will remain uniquely united — and continue to grow into this beautiful place that we are all grateful to call home.

 

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