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I think I began to understand the world, truly, when I began to hitchhike. Did I learn how violent and full of weirdos the world is? In fact, no, just the opposite. I learned of the loving kindness of the human race. (Of course, I’m also a young white woman who people treat kindly, so take it with a grain of salt.)

Let me describe my quintessential hitchhiking experience: I find out the driver of the car is a very gracious, totally random person who has views on life that are wildly different from mine. There are hours of conversation ahead, and you bet I’m grateful to be safely on my way.

This leads to amazing conversation. From the ruminations of Italian men, to tea-time with Indians in Auburn, to the truck-driver hauling redwoods from California, to the loving Montana family who trusts George W. Bush, I’ve had wonderful conversations with all of them.

This is what I’ve learned: everyone has a good point, when the listener can hear it.

It’s not like it’s easy, and I’m no shining example. Sometimes hours on the freeway helps, as does studying non-violent communication, consensus meetings, or from Quakers.

The situation of the world’s most compassionate listener, the Dalai Lama, illustrates the difficulty: repressive governments or people sometimes don’t listen back. (“What was his actual request again? Sabotage and selfishness?” I don’t think so).

I’m continually amazed that listening is not a prerequisite to adulthood. I guess some adults are just more comfortable with blame and anger.

While Puyallup City Council members bicker with each other, or neighbors hate each other because of a big toy or a stage, I ponder our future on this planet.

While a war wages on that no one is really fond of, we stand on either side of that Freedom Bridge, divided by name-calling and finger-pointing.

Shouldn’t we be listening to each other?

Whether I’m hitchhiking or not, a question I’m often asked abroad, is “Why aren’t the American people ending such-and-such atrocity?”

“Well there’s no clear answer”, I say, (or struggle to say if I’m not speaking English). “In the U.S. neighbors are more comfortable calling the police or a lawyer than setting up time to work through tough issues together.”

How ridiculous that makes us sound! Come on, Pierce County, prove me wrong.

CALENDAR: Apr. 3 Tacoma ‘Greendrinks’ at the Harmon, Apr. 4 Walk-to-Work Day, Apr. 12 Daffodil Parade, Apr. 16 Graham self-reliant meeting, Apr. 17-20 Spring Fair, Apr. 19 Puyallup parks day, Apr. 21 Sustainable Tacoma-Pierce ‘Rainwater’ talk, Apr. 22 Earth Day, Apr 23 J.H. Kunstler (urban-sprawl-solutions author) speaking in Tacoma.

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Page last modified on April 04, 2008, at 12:51 PM