One of the things I like about going to Starbucks is that the jumble of people waiting for their coffee almost always shows up with the better qualities of the human spirit on display. Goodwill, patience, humor and assuming good intentions among strangers are the norm.
At busy times, people hang around the counter waiting for their order. They are almost always courteous to each other, easily dropping into the lingo of the Starbucks tribe: “Is that your venti half-caff double-cap with almond milk or mine?”
In this loose tribe of strangers, almost everyone is easy about it when the occasional mistake is made. This is partly because the Starbucks culture supports trust. All you have to say is, “I think somebody else took my drink by accident,” and they make it for you over again. Apologies are profuse if somebody does realize they’ve taken yours by mistake. Nice.
Half the power of “assuming good intentions,” which we often talk about in our churches, is that it feels better and helps you be a less tense and anxious person.
You are an individual in “We” world. In a very real sense we are all it in together. It inherently feels good to experience both the “I” and the “We” – which is why we seek out or cling to tribes that offer belonging in the first place. It’s worthwhile cultivating and expanding that awareness.
We live inside concentric circles of “We.”
You are part of a small circle of people you deeply care about, which exists within a larger circle, and which intersects with other communities which overlap and have with many different kinds of identities, and these in turn are part of the larger circle of the world.
It’s a powerful spiritual practice to bring your awareness to these embedded circles in your world and the ways in which you are connected to each, and ultimately to all.
So much of our suffering comes from a false sense of isolation, fear and either/or thinking about other people we see as different. I’ve often noticed that people who claim the identity of being liberal are often just as intolerant of those they perceive to be intolerant as the openly intolerant are, and frequently a lot less honest about it.
Thinking about your connection to others in terms of these concentric circles is a spiritual practice for cutting across these false dichotomies and experiencing an expanded sense of belonging, hope – and peace.
Yes. We really are in it together. Tensions and conflicts that arise within yourself or between yourself and others can be overcome, at least internally and usually externally as well if we proceed from that awareness – and have the tools to do so.
I like remembering that the people gathered around the Starbucks counter come from all religious and political persuasions. The easy moments of pleasantry arise from what we have in common with strangers, not focus on how we might be different.
Let’s cultivate that!
Where do you experience connections with people you have something in common with -whose politics or religious outlook might be different from yours?
With You on the Path,