Have you ever heard of ‘political hobbyism‘?
It is a term that has received some attention over the past couple of years, based on how people interact with the news, and more specifically, political news. The way I heard it described, it is very similar to what we have always seen in sports, as in being a fan. Not necessarily involved in the outcome, not participating, but very adamant and fanatical from the distance.
Are you a ‘hobbyist’ in any key area of life? If you are on social media at all, then you may have succomb to it. A strong, polarized opinion one way or another, and people who disagree are on the other team. You may not even know who they are, but they are out there! And you have seen their tweets…
Polarization is something that plagues us in creating community in all settings. The worst form of it is described above; people disconnected from actual outcomes but vehemently attacking or defending certain ideas. We create this ‘us vs them’ dichotomy when we choose not to be involved with the ideas we espouse. Even worse, when we choose to condemn or distance based on what we think others are thinking.
One of my favourite things to facilitate is setting the table for others to explore their difference. It is key in reconciliation, and if we want any form of community in our groups and neighbourhoods, we have to embrace some difference. Being part of others seeking this out is priceless, but can come at a cost to some. It may mean letting down your guard and learning to care for someone else, especially for the sake of your greater purpose.
If that sounds familiar, be sure to read my recap on the 3 Tough Questions here.
The table is a great image for this process. I was challenged with this idea some time ago by someone involved with reconciliation between groups on an international level. His key statement was that it is difficult to hate someone with whom you share a meal. Do it on a continual basis and you start having a conversation. A dialogue. You might even find some commonality that is greater than your difference. But you have to come to the table.
It was in this discussion that I remembered even Jesus sat with those who disagreed with him. Even the one who would betray him.
This first National Day of Truth & Reconciliation is special, not just because it is the first official one. It is also a celebration of something we continue to strive towards, not something we have already done. The ‘orange shirt’ is a reminder to keep coming to the table, sit down, and allow someone into our circle. Empathy can be nearly unavoidable when people are not simply an opinion you read about online.
So where do you start? It is as simple as this: Get to know someone outside your comfort zone. You may still disagree, but you might move away from them being ‘them’.