OLD ORCHARD BEACH — I went to a dinner party once where there were six people. It was an opportunity for me to get to know all these people better. No one dominated the conversation, and the free give and take gave us all insights into who we each were.

Toward the end of the evening, the person I knew least well offered a story about a woman he and his wife had known. She was an extremely creative person and could see a pencil on a table and envision an ice skater. She would then move the pencil to mimic a skater.

However, this woman did not have a lot of social skills, so she frequently overstayed her visits with many local folks. One of them approached my new friend and asked, “What do you do with her when it is time for her to go home?”

This man’s answer was brilliant: “We just set another place for her at the table.”

It occurred to me that we all need to set another place at the table.

If we have views about Black Lives Matter and know someone who feels differently, set another place at the table.

If we have views about abortion and know someone who feels differently, set another place at the table.

If we have views about universal health care and know someone who feels differently, set another place at the table.

If we have views about right to die issues and know someone who feels differently, set another place at the table. 

If we have views on immigration and know someone who feels differently, set another place at the table.

When we converse with others, I think the issues are less about specifics and more about subjects such as justice. We see the scales and sword figures on many a courthouse. We have Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” How does that statement shape views and discussions on hot-button issues?

How do we become a more peaceful world? My online dictionary suggests this is “freedom from disturbance; the absence of war or civil disorder.” The dictionary also stated it may be symbolized by a handshake; perhaps, in today’s world, pressing the hands together, as in a sign of prayer or “Namaste.” Is peace the absence of anxiety or distress?

I suspect most of us believe in the power of love. How does that affect our discussion? Are we moving toward compassion, charity, goodwill, benevolence, bettering of humanity? How does altruism, unselfishness and benevolence become part of the equation? How do we protect the humanity of all?

Are equal rights part of justice? Are equal rights human rights? Can human rights be equal to both men and women, Black and white? How does liberty, on which this country is built, fit with with justice, peace and love?

In 1987 a movie was released called “Babette’s Feast.” Perhaps the shortest-ever synopsis is that “divisions were healed.” Perhaps that is what we need now. We need not to spill out platitudes or worn-out statements, but seek to understand one another’s fears and concerns. Listen to one another’s hearts.

We may never agree, but we can seek to understand, rather than to be understood. St. Francis of Assisi would be proud. There is a lot of anger in our world. What better place than at a good meal to rise above our selves and seek to really know one another.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.