Renowned philosopher Linus van Pelt once said, “There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” While the young man searched for the ever-elusive Great Pumpkin, he was met with skepticism, snickers, and outright mocking.
But, what Linus said in a cartoon in 1966 may be a little too indicative of society in 2017. A 2015 study from the City Observatory found more than a third of Americans had never met their neighbor. Whether it’s our cell phones, our work-induced stress, or a general turn toward isolationism, we aren’t taking the time to learn about those around us. And, in turn, we’re not learning about things that are different than us.
That’s one of the most frightening things about our society today. We’re trapped in an echo chamber, only hearing things we agree with from people who look and sound like us. When Robert Frost wrote “good fences make good neighbors,” he wasn’t talking about isolating ourselves from others. He openly spoke about working together and respecting those around you.
Instead, if your neighbor had a Hillary Clinton sign in his yard or a pro-life bumper sticker, you may be too quick to judge from the outside. People who disagree with you make you smarter. People who disagree with you make you understand more. People who disagree with you make you a better person.
Instead of being too afraid to talk to a neighbor about religion or politics (or the great pumpkin), make a point to walk down the sidewalk and say hello or to invite them over for a cocktail. Don’t be afraid to talk, and listen, about the important things happening in each other’s lives.
The more we stop being afraid of those different than us, the sooner we start treating each other better.
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.