Engaging our differences

Rebecca Cross, Managing Editor

Growing up, I loved the game of basketball. I played it, watched it and even coached it. But, more than the rhythmic feel of a ball in my hands, I enjoyed how the game stretched me to collaborate with teammates from different backgrounds and with different ideas, all unified by a common goal when on the court.

I wasn’t always receptive to collaborating. I argued with teammates, selfishly trying to outdo players. But, one of the best things that happened was when a coach recognized my competitiveness among my teammates and had me talk problems through with others instead of letting them fester. The result? A stronger team and individual.

Even if we don’t always agree, we can understand others better if we actually talk about our differences.

John Wooden, one of my favorite coaches, said, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”

I’m a little discouraged when I think about the natural tendencies of my peers and I. Millenials struggle with resolving conflict, and I fear this hurts us intellectually because we don’t always thrive on learning from others.

In a study about different generations in the workforce, authors Rodney H. Deyoe and Terry L. Fox said, “Due to this heavy emphasis on achievement and being winners, the Millennials have a hard time with processing failure and criticism, since they have always been protected from feeling unsuccessful.”

We miss out on learning from our mistakes and the insight of others when we don’t dialogue. Instead of accepting every idea and whim, may we learn to form ideas and engage others in theirs. Yes, sometimes we’ll have hurt feelings, but we’ll be better for the conversations.

If the “The Patriot” staff tolerated each other’s opinions, we wouldn’t have an award-winning newspaper. We have to willingly receive critique, brainstorm ideas (many of which are different) and act on a conclusion for the good of the team. “The Patriot” isn’t flawless, but we’re definitely better for collaborating.

Learning from others also includes those of different backgrounds whether that is in regards to age, race or religion. This semester I am writing my honors thesis paper on racial tension and triumphs in Florence County. As I interview people who have lived more decades than I, common insights have shown up. A retired public school superintendent said it best.

“One of the big problems today is we’ve got people who try to impress somebody else by saying that they’re not racially prejudiced by saying that, ‘I don’t see color.’ The greater thing is, ‘I see color, but I don’t let it cloud my objectivity in treating that person like I want to be treated.’ You see different. We need to see differences.”

I don’t want to just tolerate differences. I want to hear them, and I want us to talk about our differences because then we’re all going to grow. When we confront how we react to differences, it causes change in us, intellectual growth and more unity.

I genuinely believe many would agree that engaging ideas is more important than merely accepting or suppressing all the time. But, I think we need to have the boldness to follow through instead of always nodding our heads. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all the time. And I don’t want them to.