Voices got loud. Arms waved. Interruptions abounded. We’d had cocktails with our antipasto and wine with our chicken piccata and pasta. Emotions ran high as the talk turned to politics.

Catching a momentary pause in the clamor, Linda spoke. “You know,” she said, pausing for her quiet voice to be heard. “You know, my friends say the same thing about you.”

Linda was the lone person at the long table of eight guests at the candlelit table to hold an opposing view.  “Your critiques are the same ones I hear made about your party.”

I could not hear any gasping, but the shift was notable. Voices got loud. Arms waived. Interruptions abounded. The enthusiastic tried to score points by being right about the booming economy, the raging fires in Australia, and the value of tweeting from the Oval Office.

Wondering if we could return to conversations about the latest good music we’d heard and our travel plans for the new year, I tapped my fork on my glass.

“I’d like to make a toast. To Linda. For being willing to be courageous and vulnerable. For being willing to share her perspective and give us a chance to listen and understand. Cheers.” Everyone raised their glasses and the room fell silent.

The political chatter resumed for a bit before the lemon pound cake and coffee settled us down.

Four years ago I found myself seated immediately next to my first “Linda”. Her name was Lori. A handful of us were relishing Thai food on New Year’s Eve. I’d grown accustomed to my socializing with “like minded” people who shared my political persuasion. I thought—“This is a special occasion. How could my friends have invited this person with such irrational beliefs?”

I’ve had some great teachers in the years since that plate of pad thai.  I’ve made many new friends with the Linda and Lori bravery who would not only share their differing views with me (most people make assumptions about mine based on my biography), but tolerated my many questions about how they came to believe what they did.

With each of these came similar conclusions. There is a shared caring about having clean air and water, being financially secure, and wanting our government leaders to be better humans, starting with bickering less.

As midnight approached we rose from the table, clearing our plates and retrieving our winter coats.

 “I’m glad we had a chance to talk,” said Linda.

“Me, too,” I said. “I hope it’s a great year ahead for you.” And I do.

Coach Koenig

Who inspires you to speak bravely?

How do you stay curious about beliefs different from your own?

What relationships matter more to you than a difference of opinions?

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