Monday, September 26, 2011

What Do You Have In Common?

"What do you have in common"?  Last week I went to a women's bible study. At one point we were asked to form groups of 6-8 ladies and, in ten minutes, find out what we had in common.  We were told that nothing was too small and that there would be prizes.  So, I get together with a group of women that I'd never met before and one of them says, "I wanna win this".  Someone else says, "me too", another, "oh yeah, there's always good prizes", and so on until we discover our first commonality: we are all competitive and want to win the "what do you have in common" contest!  Now, don't forget that when we were given our instructions we were told that "nothing is to small to count" so, at first, we were throwing all sorts of things out there:  we were all women, we were all at a bible study, we were all in the same room, we're all daughters, we all had shoes on...etc...after a while we had to start discussions and conversations to find out what else might connect the eight of us but we found out things like we all own ugg boots, we all own a crock pot, we've all been to Hawaii, we all had some member of our family in the military and we'd all had the chicken pox.  After the ten minutes were up we had come up with 35 things that the eight of us had in common.  We figured we'd be in the running to win the prize.  The first group announces that they found 8 things in common, second group: 12, third group: 8, fourth group 6, the fifth group said that the only thing they had in common was that they didn't have anything in common.  Well, needless to say, we won. 

After the meeting I started thinking about the game and it made me sad to realize that a group of eight ladies sitting together for ten minutes couldn't come up with any similarities.  I started to think that too often, as people, we are quick to see how different we are in things like skin color, political views, clothing choices or parenting styles but we are slow to acknowledge how much we truly have in common.  Basic things like we are all human, we live on this earth together, we are all someone's child.

I loved how during the commonality game our group was able to come up with quite a few superficial things right off the bat but after discussion and conversation we came up with some really interesting and deeper similarities.  

It makes me wonder, when I walk into a store or a movie or I'm sitting in a waiting room and I look around at all the people...what do I have in common with them?  Who else in the room has had a parent die of cancer?  Who has a spouse in the military? Who enjoys theater? Who likes soccer?  Who has a child with special needs?  There is always someone else out there who can commiserate and understand what we are dealing with.  There is always someone, somewhere, that has been through or is going through a similar situation.

I guess what I learned from this exercise in similarities is twofold.  First, we all have things in common, some things are quick and easy to identify while some may take a bit of discussion and conversation to uncover.  Second, we are never alone in our journey.  We will never be the only person to have experienced a certain joy or despair.  Many people have gone through the same trials and celebrated identical triumphs as we have. There will always be someone out there who has had a similar path in life. To me that is comforting in a way.  Although I may not always know the people who have dealt with the same issues as me, it's reassuring to know that I'm not alone. When I do actually know people who are dealing with similar issues, it is a blessing to have someone who can empathize and sympathize.  For example, I'm part of an online group for parent's of Kabuki kids.  I love this site because even if we, as parents, only have that one thing in common, it is a strong, emotional bond that connects us.  We are able to talk about the accomplishments of our kids, the hardships, the frustration and the love and we all completely understand what the others are going through.  Then, as the online discussions grow, we find out that it's not just Kabuki syndrome that we have in common.  The discussions grow and change as we learn more about each other.  It's amazing to me how once we start talking to people and looking past our differences, we really do have a lot in common!

So, that's what's been on my mind...

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