A World Isolated: How Can We Find Common Ground?

R.A Brock

Copy Editor/Staff Writer

As we approach Thanksgiving, a few things come to mind: food, family, pilgrims, the end of the semester approaching. Thanksgiving reminds me of togetherness. 

Thanksgiving means breaking bread with those who are different than us. I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from others’ personal issues. I have more in common with others than I would think. This is a time to learn about each other.

Recently, I had made a tasteless joke about someone that I did not know. It was cruel and uncalled for, nor did they know about it. It was someone I was not connected to socially and only one other person heard it, thinking this would not affect them.

Later, I felt horrible about it, a type of remorse that I rarely feel as I don’t have time to dwindle on those sorts of emotions and passive actions. Feeling as if in some way that that person could be me, and I felt as if it was me, having been deprived of opportunities merely because I was only taken at face value.

I had a sociology class to attend after this happened. The subject of the class was the study of Jane Addams: activist, social worker, sociologist, public administrator and author. Part of the theory in this class referenced “a problem of distant others. This is where we ask ourselves: “Should we care about people who are socially distant from ourselves.”

We notice that much of our good behavior and kindness is automatically extended to family and friends, but many do not extend this conduct to others outside our social circles.

As for this, Addams diagnosed that our modern society and asked “How can those who are apathetic to others outside their own ‘bubble’ solve the problem of caring for others and to see the bigger picture?”

Addams argues that by meeting new people, a more diverse contact with other people; by meeting people that you would typically not socialize with, broadens our experience as humans. This experience helps correct our prejudice of others. By seeing further than our own lives and imagining the lives of others, we gain an understanding of the struggles of another person.

As I go through life, I’ll see patterns of people in the same situations. By understanding what other people are going through, we are able to better equipped to lessen the suffering of others through empathy and social action. This is an obligation as a member of our species. 

So as we approach the holidays, it is best for us to make an effort in order to see the bigger picture. By having new experiences, being kinder to the passing stranger and “paying it forward,” I can help others in need while helping myself. 

When we are understanding and kind, we help strangers when they may be down on their luck or have been enduring hardships we know nothing of.  I receive a warmth in my heart and another experience to live with if I help others. That is the meaning of Thanksgiving, putting aside differences and coming together in harmony and peace.

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