Commonality in a Community of Mothers

I am the wife of an LDS (Mormon) bishop. My best friend from high school is the wife of a Jewish rabbi. By reconnecting on the Internet we have discovered that as wives of clergy we have a lot in common and that the congregations our husbands lead have far more similarities than we imagined.

A common theme has emerged in my mind as I travel around the world of mothers on the Internet—the deep emotional response of women about the divisiveness in our current world culture.

Robin at Around the Island writes in her post Why Do We Hate,

How is it that so many millions, billions, of people in this world honestly feel it is better to hate and to fear than to extend a hand in friendship? How can anyone raise their children to hate, to fear, even to murder those who are different? Are we really so different from each other? What would happen if we all chose to enact a change, to let that change begin right here, right now. To let go of hate and fear and learn to celebrate our differences.

In another of Robin’s posts, The Importance of a Supportive Community I found another Mother in Israel writing this true statement, “Every family needs to be part of a connected, supportive community.” Her post includes an important list of ways we can make our community stronger.

Building social capital has been a topic in our community of late, and I posted a poll on what helps you feel that you belong to a community.

As I consider Robin’s statement to “celebrate our differences” I wonder if our real purpose is not to find what is different but to find as she says that we “aren’t so different from each other.”

Lis of Woolgatherings, in an interview with Michelle at Scribbit, talks about blogging and staying away from controversial topics like religion and politics. She says,

Although every blogger has the right to include what she wishes on her blog, I don’t think it’s fair to force your opinions on others. I tend to stay away from blogs that are overtly negative or criticize, and especially those that are close-minded. I have one real-life friend whose religious and political views have always been the complete opposite of mine. And yet, we have so much other than that in common.

Our intolerance of differing opinions is contributing to broken families, divided communities and ultimately to hate, fear, murder and war, and that itself is a controversial topic.

However, it is a topic that mothers especially should be considering and writing about in a positive way precisely because as Lis says, “We do have so much in common and we aren’t so different from each other.”

I served as a regional president of a large women’s organization for nearly five years. I found that the more we focused on diversity, the less unity we attained. And, the more we focused on what we have in common, the more unity we gained.

As we aim to build communities throughout the world, despite our differences, our purpose should be to seek unity, not diversity, by finding what we have in common.

There is a movement to highlight diversity as a goal rather than a fact. Differences are real and the very word itself implies a lack of agreement. But magnifying our differences divides us.

In our culture we have come to look for what differentiates us from those we disagree with, explore or magnify those differences, build evidence for our side, find others who agree with us, and ultimately divide ourselves into separate groups who engage in divisive communication with the groups who oppose us.

Once these separate groups occur, we have little ability to move between separate groups and regain or form larger and stronger communities.

The website Indivisible: Stories of American Community

portrays—through the original artistic contributions of leading photographers and interviewers—the creativity, energy, and richness of local involvement in America, a largely untold story of the many individual and combined acts that are shaping communities and ultimately the future of the country.

While each person will have their own experience in this documentary gallery, I am inspired by the similarities of individuals and places, not their differences.

I envision a community to be just what it means—a group of people in the same place or locality who build on their common interests. And our ability to communicate about what makes us compatible will connect our communities, one family to another, the world over.

Read more of Finding What Inspires in April when I post the series, “Conversations with a Jewish Rabbi and a Mormon Bishop” on Wednesdays as part of Everyday Biography.

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5 Comments

  1. compulsive writer
    Mar 31, 2008

    I wonder if our real purpose is not to find what is different but to find as she says that we “aren’t so different from each other.”

    Excellent point. And I agree.

    In the context of blogging, I believe it’s OK to express personal opinion even about hot-button issues. I don’t see it as forcing an opinion on others–they have a choice whether or not to read. While I also prefer to avoid people who don’t do it very well (close-minded or harshly) I can appreciate such expression when it is presented in an open, discussion-type format. I believe it’s healthy to learn how to disagree agreeably. My experience has been that at least sometimes it’s only in diving deep into the discussion that we can begin to see the things we have in common.

  2. Lis Garrett
    Mar 31, 2008

    I agree with Compulsive Writer. I don’t appreciate the “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” mentality. If differences can be discussed in a respectful manner, then great. All too often, however, readers get worked up, become defensive, and leave offensive comments toward differing points of view. I personally prefer to keep that off my blog.

    Although people have a choice to read my blog or not, I imagine that a few of the things for which I have a strong opinion would not be well-received. Could a person who disagrees choose to click pass without reacting, or would she feel compelled to comment? Having a blog entitles you to publish your opinions, yes, but I do believe you must show an ounce of social decorum.

  3. Robin
    Mar 31, 2008

    What a fascinating post. I want to read it through again (preferably when I’m less sleep-deprived) before I set words to paper, err, to screen, but I suspect I’m going to head in the direction of “what unites us is so much stronger than what divides us, but it is our diversity that adds color and interest and expands our horizons, that shows us that there are many paths to the truth”. (Hopefully I’ll say it better after I get that sleep I mentioned.) While I’m sorting out my thoughts, I thought you might be interesting in reading two earlier posts of mine which touch on similar topics:

    Three Things I Want My Children To…

    A Lesson Too Late for the Learning?

  4. TJ
    Mar 31, 2008

    I wholeheartedly recommend Robin’s post in the above comment, “A Lesson Too Late for the Learning” to anyone interested in reading a real life example of what I am speaking to here.

  5. Michelle at Scribbit
    Mar 31, 2008

    Well said, and you’ve quoted some of my favorite bloggers too–way to score some points!

    And the post of Robin’s that you reference in your comments is my favorite of hers

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