Part 1 of 3
Yes. We are now able to access and engage essentially anyone else in the world through social media and comments sections. But that does not necessarily mean we should.
I confess to having squandered many hours (many times) going back and forth with someone unknown to me except for their digital moniker and contributions to a thread. In fact, in the three-plus years we have lived in our current home, there has probably been more time wasted in these contentious episodes online than what has been spent talking to our neighbors.
I now realize how bonkers that is!
So, I decided to start talking to folks in the community. Granted, there are not always moments to carve out five or 10 minutes as I am hopping out of the car trying to make it to the 9 a.m. Zoom meeting. But there are plenty of other moments when we can stop to remark on the weather, construction work down the street or on my kid’s graduation sign in the yard.
One of the times that often lends itself to a neighborly encounter is on morning walks. It has been wonderful getting to know several folks this way.
There is Heidi, who is sometimes jogging, sometimes walking. We are sure to warn each other when we spot a snake somewhere along our routes. There is also K.C., the retired firefighter, who knows some great paths to explore. His knowledge of the history of the properties up here is fascinating.
Then there is Pete. I like to call him Pierrino because he is originally from Italy.
Pete and I started seeing each other almost every morning as he was walking his friendly old Lab Bella. One day, we were talking about good food because Pete was a professional cook for many years. Plus, his wife Rosa happens to be a great baker. One thing leads to another and Pete invites me to dinner.
Now, anybody who knows me well, knows that I hate Donald Trump. I am actually a relatively conservative guy theologically and politically. But I hate Donald Trump. Hate his personal characteristics. Hate the influence he has on our culture. Hate that someone who embodies “the six, no seven things the Lord hates” (Prov. 6) is enthusiastically embraced by so many friends from church. Hate him!
Yet it turns out, my buddy Pete is a big fan.
But at this point, I know Pete. Still love his dog. Still find his background fascinating. Still love his cooking and Rosa’s baking. All this even though he has Hannity on in the background the whole time. Not only that, Pete still knows me. Knows I love going to Mt. Pinos, knows my kid just graduated high school and has even listened to a few of my podcasts.
So what does this all mean?
It means that I know Pete is not a complete jerk; not a bigoted hate monger; not a heartless drone who bows down to a golden idol of Trump. He is just Pete. He is my neighbor and my pal.
At the same time, Pete knows I am not some rioting member of Antifa who wants the government to open all the borders and pay for any green new deal all while I personally defund the police.
No. We are neighbors. We are pals. He just happens to like Trump and I happen to hate Trump.
This is not to say everyone is a Pete. There are some who are just complete jackasses. There are some acquaintances who never find time to say happy birthday, ask how my kid is doing or how things are going in business. But heaven forbid I post an interesting David Brooks or David French OpEd! To some, that is cause to go to social media war. The objective is to inflict as much rhetorical damage as possible. Honestly understanding or seeking to be understood does not factor in. Mischaracterizing the perceived opponent’s views in order to vilify all of “them” is the agenda.
Even though individuals like this are often the loudest, the truth is that a vast majority of the time, if we take the time to get to know some folks, we will find that there is a lot more to Pete, Heidi, K.C. and the rest of our neighbors than whatever color hat they happen to wear.
It just requires an investment of a couple minutes to say hello, learn our neighbors’ names and remark on the weather. When it comes to politics, here is a good tip: If your neighbor is willing to share their point of view, LISTEN. Listen well enough to be able to accurately reflect their views. Listen and understand.
It does not mean we have to agree. But it is a good start.
Corey Nathan is a Castaic resident and host of the podcast, “Talkin’ Politics & Religion Without Killin’ Each Other.”