We live during difficult, contentious times where great conflict exists often due to political differences and diverse opinions. Friendships and family relationships have been challenged, arguments continue and our society usually doesn’t recognize the areas where we get along and share common ground.
In honor of both Mother’s and Father’s Day, it is time to step back and recognize the common interests we share and the issues on which we do agree. You don’t need to be a mother or father to commit to this new direction of finding common ground, but do it for the women, men or children in your lives who have inspired you.
Often, it is helpful to look at popular culture or events in the news to recognize examples of ways that we can find common ground and get along with others.
Recently, I watched and read numerous comments about the passing and life accomplishments of Barbara Bush. Many people know little about the previous first lady’s life, including her role as a mother and her contribution to American life and history. The memorable comments from bipartisan representatives, foreign dignitaries and everyday people were mostly positive.
She was remembered as a strong woman who spoke her mind and as a strong advocate for literacy and supporting the need for AIDS research and acceptance of AIDS patients. Her family also commended her for her role as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who touched her family members’ lives and who believed in them unconditionally.
Her comments during her 1990 commencement speech at Wellesley College echoed her life beliefs when she said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.”
During both Mother’s and Father’s Day, think about her words and spend time with a family member or friend and find a way to make a difference in the world by helping others, finding common ground and saying thank you.
Other examples of ways that we can find common ground were seen during the congressional baseball game last June where both parties participated in the all-American pastime. Commentators spoke about how the parties came together, but continually stated that this feeling would be momentary and end the next day. This feeling of unity continued for more than one day, unfortunately, due to tragic injures that occurred after a gunman opened fire during the game.
Why couldn’t we continue to maintain the positive feelings that were expressed during that bipartisan game?
There have been many positive bipartisan sentiments expressed recently because of the illness of Sen. John McCain.
Sen. Joe Lieberman expressed his admiration, long-term relationship and ability to work together in the Senate with McCain. Before his diagnosis, McCain and former Vice President Joe Biden were honored in 2016 for their decades-long friendship marked by loyalty and civility. Both Lieberman and Biden have visited McCain during his illness and continually reflect on their joint admiration.
These examples bring to mind a book written by John Fulghum titled All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. He reinforces the basic tenets of life we learn as children that need to be reinforced and incorporated into our daily lives.
As a gift to all mothers, fathers and other role models in our lives, instead of only giving a card and making a phone call this year, why don’t we commit to finding a way to find common ground in our lives and get along with others? We are not setting a good example for our children when we continually fight about politics and other controversial topics.
As Fulghum so eloquently stated, “No matter how old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., is a psychologist at Abramson Center.