'Divided nation'? Pause politics and see what unites us
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There's been a lot of talk in the wake of the election about how "divided" we are as a nation and all the ways that we are different.
Bear with me, if you will. I want to talk about some of the ways that we're the same.
I'm at the airport in Wichita, Kan., where my flight home to Las Vegas has just been delayed due to, well, whatever.
Why is not important. When is the question -- as in, when will I ever get home? So far, the answer remains to be seen.
I spent the past three days in nearby Salina, where I spoke at a fundraiser for Women Helping Women, a grass-roots nonprofit group that truly and nobly lives up to its name.
I arrived at the airport an hour ago in plenty of time for the scheduled departure, only to be told the schedule had changed.
That's life, isn't it? Things change. I'm not worried.
If my flight gets cancelled and I can't make it home tonight, I can always go back to Salina and somebody will take me in.
Seriously. I had all sorts of offers from people I had never met who, when they heard that I was coming to town, emailed to invite me to come to dinner or even sleep on their hide-a-bed.
If I email those folks to say I'm coming back tonight, surely one of them will offer to put me up.
Salina is that kind of town, the kind that can make a stranger -- even one from Las Vegas, of all places -- feel like long-lost kin.
It's a great place, warm and welcoming, even if temperatures drop into the 20s, as they did this weekend, and you have to put on everything in your suitcase to keep from stuttering.
There are lots of places like Salina. I've had similar offers of kindness wherever I've gone to speak, from California to the Carolinas, Texas to Tennessee, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Florida ...
I spend a lot of time in airports. Wichita Mid-Continent is a perfectly nice one. But I'd rather not sleep in it tonight.
On Sunday, in Salina, I spoke in a high-school auditorium to a thousand or so people, most of whom have read my column for years in the Salina Journal.
I talked about the same things I write about -- love and loss and life -- and told family stories about the time my blind brother got drunk and tried to drive the car. Why my mother and her sisters quit singing for the radio. And how my sister once tried to shoot me. Yes, with a real gun.
All the usual stories that most families have in common.
At least, that's what you'd have thought if you'd seen all those faces in the audience smiling and nodding as if to say, yes, absolutely, I and my family are just as crazy as you and yours.
We care, most of us, about many of the same things. We hope for our children's future, worry about our aging parents, delight in our grandchildren and wonder if we'll ever get to retire.
We might disagree on how to deal with the issues surrounding the things we care about. But when we talk about real people, rather than numbers, what they mean to us and how they make us feel, we speak plainly in a universal language and hear clearly with more than our ears.
In the everyday, ordinary matters of the heart, we are far more alike than we are different.
It helps, I think, to remember that. It helps to treat each other with a measure of respect and listen to each other's stories.
We are all in this lifeboat together. We live in different towns, but we share the same home. Our elected officials need to remember that and find ways to work together. If they don't, we ought to vote them out and elect some who will.
I hope to visit Salina again one day. But my flight is finally boarding. I am going home.
I will meet you there.
First Published November 26, 2012 12:00 am