(originally published July 22, 2010)
A few weekends ago, my husband and I rode our motorcycles out for lunch, something we do regularly. As we were preparing to leave for a post-lunch ride, a woman pulled up in her car to ask me about my (I'll admit it) beautiful motorcycle. The overall mural on the bike is gorgeous: a free-flowing, hand-painted, artistically brilliant representation, combining Hell's Angels and patriotic themes.
We engaged in conversation, and she commented that, at 83, she didn't think she could get into motorcycles. I suggested a trike. Anyway, she told me she’d been a journalist and had interviewed a motorcycle gang quite a few years ago, and offered to send me the text. When I gave her my contact information, she slooowllly looked up at me, and practically sneered my name: "YOU are Dr. Laura?" I said: "Yup." She immediately said, "I don't agree with most of what you have to say." I responded: "See my husband over there? He doesn’t agree with everything I have to say either...but he still loves me."
She looked at him, then looked at me, and a smile crept onto her face.
She sent me her article. I invited her to dinner. She accepted, and wrote back that most everyone who knew her would be shocked to learn we might become friends. She came to dinner, and the first thing out of her mouth was to tell me she'd walked out of a talk I’d given a few years back. I said nothing in response. She then said (and this was even before bread and salad!) I seemed so different in person and so mean otherwise. Again, I said nothing in response. I did, however, pass the margarine.
I'm convinced too much of the time it has become more natural to dislike the person whose message is counter to your preference than it is to simply agree to disagree, or congenially debate without hate. However, hate has become the current means of dealing with differences of opinion.
I give her lots of props, because she decided to go past the knee-jerk reaction of "shooting the messenger" to form her own opinion.
It was a pleasant evening after that. She's a world traveler and has met some of the most incredible people (good and bad) in history. Her stories were fascinating. After two hours, she left with an invitation to dinner at her home. I'm looking forward to it.
I don't agree with most of what she supports either, but she is an open, charming, delightful woman, and I do hope we can become friends. If we limit our interactions to the "choir," life becomes quite dull.