By Diane Hartig

We each have a narrative, a story to tell – about ourselves, about our experiences, about our beliefs, about the world in which we live. Sometimes the stories we tell about others, those others don’t recognize as being their story. It’s our story about them, not theirs.

We live in this world together. But how ‘together’ do we really live? How much do we allow ourselves to be impacted by the narratives of others? And who are the others we do allow ourselves to be impacted by?

I remember a local event where some folks gathered around conflicting narratives. There were speakers addressing their topic, and protestors challenging the speakers. It became rowdy. Police escorted a few people out, one man was injured. One of the speakers stated that, while he speaks all over the nation, he had never seen a crowd behave like this.

Which prompted me to think, “Who do you speak to?”

Call it preaching to the choir, talking to the ‘Amen’ crowd, or enlisting others in our cause, we all like to be affirmed and have others on our side. Support is a good and necessary part of being human. It can help build community and strengthen us as individuals. It truly is “not good for man to be alone”.

But when we surround ourselves only with those who agree with us, when we exclude those with whom we differ or who would challenge us, we lose. We lose opportunity for growth, and we run a risk of living a distorted story. We may develop a narrative that causes harm, even while we are convinced we are doing good.

Where there is adamant refusal to allow narratives to intersect, we are left with only an “I’m right and you’re wrong” story .

But where we allow our narratives to intersect we open opportunity. It may be that we will find connection, understanding, growth, even joy – all kinds of good things. So, then, what can you and I do to create a space where we can listen and be heard, perhaps establish empathy, perhaps hear another’s heart?