The Common Good

National and community prosperity require rapport-building

Source: NYU News
Date: April 18, 2013

I recently attended An Evening with Rev. Jim Wallis and Arianna Huffington to listen to a discussion of issues explored by Jim Wallis in his new book, “On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good.” Wallis conveyed that Americans should revive an ancient premise from the Christian gospel — love thy neighbor as thyself — to find common ground for the common good. While the concept of the common good is open to interpretation, we must engage in a national dialogue to search for mutually beneficial and pragmatic solutions within our communities as individuals who live in partnership. He said, “We can do better, and we have to do better.”

Political polarization in Washington, D.C., and across the country limits our progress. We need the courage and civility to develop the best resolutions together for everyone and save future generations from collapse. Huffington and Wallis explained that “mindfulness” could help awaken our own individual selves in order to meaningfully tune in to the social environment and build rapport with others. Wallis said, “Don’t go left. Don’t go right. Go deeper.”

They encouraged people to develop trust within their communities and “transform the stranger into neighbor.” Such a shift in attitude and behavior can seem psychologically challenging for individuals who have embedded hostility towards “the Other.” I think we need to recognize that our historical ways of relating to others are now impractical, and we need a different way to conceptualize how individuals relate to one another. Our communities can benefit by helping others if we learn — as individuals — to love the people around us as our neighbor even if they are vulnerable, disagree with us or seem to live a culturally different lifestyle.