As I’ve stated before, a primary objective of mine in writing these columns is to encourage more civil dialogue in our community. I’m happy to say that this is happening. The email feedback I’ve received has been substantial. With just a couple of exceptions (which included some very creative emojis) it has all been polite, thoughtful and often very detailed — both from those who agree and disagree with my political views.
Even more encouraging is the face-to-face dialogue. After my first contribution to these pages last December, I began exchanging emails with Bruce Abel. Bruce and I are not on the same end of the political spectrum. Another column or two and multiple emails later, Bruce and I met for lunch, joined by his friend Deb Jones. We agreed to organize a get-together. Bruce generously offered his home for the gathering and Deb coordinated everything. They invited a few of their friends and I invited some of mine.
Thirteen of us met in late April. We began by stating misconceptions we felt others had about ourselves and those with similar beliefs. That led to an hour-and-a-half discussion covering racism, homelessness, immigration, education, fiscal responsibility vs. government spending — topics that are often polarizing.
Did we all agree on everything? No, certainly not. But what we found was that there was common ground on all of these issues. Our values and beliefs are not nearly as disparate as our politicians and the press make it seem. It’s likely that the values of our elected officials are also not as far apart as their voting records seem to indicate … but that’s a topic for another column.
Bruce and Deb are helping to launch a campaign to make Eugene and Springfield “Cities of Kindness.” It’s likely you’ve seen their “Choose Kindness” signs around town (800 distributed so far!). In short, their goal is to create a culture of kindness through their work with schools, faith-based organizations, businesses, neighborhood associations, non-profits and governmental agencies (spreadingkindnesscampaign.org). Former mayor and Republican Tom Tait of Anaheim, California is a leader in the cities of kindness movement. He will give the keynote speech at their local celebration on Nov. 3.
Kudos to those spearheading this effort. Although it’s somewhat disheartening to admit that we need an organized effort to promote kindness, we do. And while Bruce, Deb and others are spending considerable time organizing this, a real difference can be made by each of us without much effort at all: Wait 10 seconds to hold the door open for someone behind you; make eye contact and say “Hi” when you pass someone on the sidewalk; let that car coming onto Beltline merge in front of you; listen to, respect and try to understand others’ points of view …
The biggest differences in our everyday lives are made locally. Have a conversation (we held a second meeting last night — this time at my house), spread some kindness, be involved in causes you believe in. We, everyday citizens, are responsible for our community, not politicians in Salem or Washington. The closer to home decisions are made, the better they seem to be.
June 1, 2019 by Ryan Radloff ([email protected]) writes a monthly column for The Register-Guard. Contact him with feedback, topics for future columns or to get involved in community discussions.