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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Practicing social civility


Joyce Sasse - Supper conversation was a highlight at our boarding home during the years I was at University. Our landlady skillfully stimulated conversation by asking how we saw the issues of the day. Along with her teen aged son (very involved in sports) there was a public-school teacher and students from the Colleges of Engineering, Biology and Theology.

In the heat of discussion, we learned how to present our ideas and listen for other points of view. The one rule was that we had to show respect for each other.

In these days when we are bombarded by fake news and accusatory tweets, along with trigger-happy bursts of lies and slander, I long for more civilized public discourse. But correcting the imbalance won’t happen automatically. We need more “Mum P(s)” who will give us opportunity to learn the necessary skills that are basic in building strong healthy networks of concerned persons.

I have admiration for the school teachers who, from kindergarten on up, encourage students to share their ideas as they creatively work together on a project.

I am appreciative of those churches that can provide a safe place for people to come together to discuss controversial issues. A faith community that opens itself to welcome a broad segment of persons can bring much healing. A faith community that remains exclusive and judgmental can cause much pain.

Increasingly, sectors of our media are trying to rise above polarization and social turbulence by fact-checking information, seeking out the stories of those who have been mistreated, and giving voice to issues once considered verboten.

With elders sharing their experience, younger people sharing their enthusiasm and the middle-aged sharing their insights, together we can have truly amazing exchanges. What is more, such exchanges can add a spirit of vitality in a world that has almost forgotten how to laugh.

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