Monday, November 19, 2007

Grateful for Common Ground

At a time when divisions seem to be the rule in our culture, I find myself this Thanksgiving season thinking about how Capabilities has helped me focus on just how similar we all are. Yes, life comes at each of us differently, and we must never blur the marvelous qualities and talents that distinguish us as individuals; it is the richness of our differences that makes for such a curious and interesting life, without a doubt. I note, however, that as methods for communicating proliferate – talk radio, 24 hour cable news and talk shows, web logging, just to name a few of the more prominent means – the discourse seems to be rougher and rougher, the language parsing and pummeling, the sentiments expressed angry and demeaning. And all in the name of debate and dialogue.

Hmmm. What is this all about? I know we are a funny species, we humans. We love to find ways to disagree and prove our points. And debate, discussion, disagreement are critical to a free society. So, let’s not stop that. But what about adding some civility, politeness, listening to varied perspectives? And what would happen if we tried to find common ground occasionally when we discuss and debate our politics, our religions, our cultural and personal preferences? Could we find our way out of gridlock then? Could the essential changes that must happen actually begin?

All this musing lately led me to my own life, of course, as reflection always does. This is when it occurred to me just how even more wonderful the Capabilities experience is for me. I am so grateful for the chance to work with so many individuals and families, helping to explore solutions and alternatives to some of life’s hardest challenges. What I found myself focusing on this week was just how level the playing field is when it comes to our feelings about health and well-being, illness and injury, fear and anxiety, relief and respite.

I’m finding as I work with hundreds of people every month that the nearly universal reaction to illness and injury is the same, regardless of age, economics, ability levels, geography. Oh, surely, individuals express those emotions and reactions differently (but not so much, it turns out). In all cases the common ground is also the sacred ground of seeking a helping and friendly hand to face whatever it is we have to face. Common ground feels good to walk on. For those moments, we are all the same and it’s a fairly amazing sensation.

While it’s true that many of us who interact at the store won’t be friends or agree politically or share the same perspectives on many things, it feels good and honest to welcome everyone who comes into Capabilities, or contacts us by phone or the internet, with the same enthusiasm and gratitude that they found us. It feels good to listen for a change to someone else’s story. It feels good to try to think about ways of helping, regardless of whether it’s a product we sell, or a referral we can make, or a brainstorm we have just in that moment. It feels great when we do help. We are all the more appreciative when someone sends us a note or calls us later to confirm that what they got from us is working and has made all the difference.

As I look back over this year, there are so many individual stories I remember. I love knowing that for a few moments (and sometimes longer) I have been part of the fiber that joins families, of the worry that heaps on when something goes wrong, of the relief when there is a tool or a person or a place to go that will help. Thank goodness this life’s work causes me to listen more intently, to focus more specifically, to care more passionately. I appreciate, too, the mistakes and snafus of building a business. When these mistakes involve people and their comfort, I find the motivation to correct them is so powerful. It’s another place of commonality, facing mistakes and fixing them. There is not a one of us alive who has not felt that dread. And, the great relief of resolution when it’s done.

Thanks to each of you who have been a part of Capabilities this year. Pam and I have found common ground we won’t forget about for the rest of our lives. You have brought us more joy than we can express; you have sharpened us, tested us, believed in us beyond our wildest dreams. You have let us be part of some of the most difficult moments of your lives, trusted us to help you, and expressed your gratitude for having such a place.

We are ever mindful that Capabilities can only exist because of all of you. Thank you for being there! Thank you, too, for making our business even better with your suggestions and ideas. Thank you most of all for reminding us of just how much common ground there really is among us.

May you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Jim. said...

This is a beautiful reflection on the connections that join us all. Thanks for providing a few minutes of thoughtful joy! Your blog is always worth reading. Hope to see you in the store soon!