For a girl who grew up going to little private schools and a conservative church, it's not hard to see how it was possible to grow up thinking that there was only one proper way of thinking, only one correct way of believing, only one opinion that was true. And it's not hard to see that the thoroughness of that education in those little classrooms succeeded in blinding my eyes and ears to dissenting opinions. I still cringe when I recall my earth science teacher in high school and how I refused to give him a hearing or have an actual dialogue with him. It was my way or the highway. If he didn't take my way, then he was simply lost and ill informed.
Yes, I had a rocky beginning into life as a participant in this diverse world of ours. I had little to no training on how to coexist with others who were as different from me as oil is from water. I had no understanding of how to converse with others who have no intention of heading over to my side of belief. The only thing I did have was a very good ability to keep an "us versus them" mentality. It served me so well in high school that I graduated with only a handful of friends. (I say that with sarcasm. It only served to bring about loneliness and stunted growth.)
And now I find myself thrust into a crash course in learning to walk with people who disagree, rather vehemently in fact, with my opinions. It would be possible to ignore them or reply to their comments in a snarky way, but enough evidence and experience exists to prove to me that those ways aren't likely to contribute to dialogue or strengthen community. And so I get to learn to do the hard thing.
The hard thing of giving someone a hearing, someone who is angry or judgmental or completely opposite of me. The hard thing of showing them respect, giving them a genuine listening ear, and seeking to understand before I seek to judge. It's not easy. Especially when well meaning friends tell me to step back and stop trying to enter into the fray.
But despite its difficulty, I'm convinced of its importance. Perhaps it won't change anyone's opinion, and perhaps it won't result in this world being more open to dialogue or more open to changing the issue we're seeking to change (birth trauma in this particular instance). But what it does do is change me. It is growing me, stretching me, making me think, making me seek to understand another before seeking to expound on my beautiful opinion, and it's making me learn what peaceful dialogue between two dissenting groups looks like. I hope at the end of this I learn just what it looks like to live in a mysterious harmony with someone who sees things completely differently than me. I hope I learn what it looks like to respect another person's humanity even though I abhor their opinion, what it means to value them and honor them as people even though we remain opposed in philosophy.
This seems to be a rather glorious, though arduous at times, adventure in growing. I think I'll take it. ;)