Reflections from the Lake

By SUSAN SYMINGTON

Sitting by a lake for three weeks will make you reflect on a lot of things. Like napping, for example. When not nodding off, however, or lost in contemplation of how the sun sparkles on the water . . . this has proved to be a place for me to put some things into perspective, such as our current political state and what is our responsibility as coaches and thought leaders in a polarized society.

Before I came up to the lake, I was invited to spend an evening hosted by the Better Angels organization, which is touring the country creating spaces for civil dialogue between people of opposing political views. I attended with one of my dearest friends, whose politics are quite different from mine. We have been having vigorous — and civil — conversations about why we believe as we do ever since the last election, and we were curious to see if this could happen among 18 strangers, given how very un-civil much of the debate seems to be in the media. I’m happy to say it is possible, and I give a lot of credit to Better Angels for the structure they used that made it a place where we could listen and learn from each other without fear of personal attacks.

It makes me feel hopeful — especially if I stop watching so much “news” and stop following friends on Facebook who feel the need to vent every day.

And being at the lake has given me a chance to connect with old friends across the political divide, talk about where we are, where we think the country is going . . . but mostly, to reassure ourselves that we are STILL who we have always been, no one has grown a second head or turned into a monster, and that we all still love the natural beauty we are surrounded with, good food, jokes, long walks, and commiserating about growing older.

So this is what I want to share from the lake. I know it is not very profound, so I’m not sure why I’m tearing up just writing these words. We have so much good here. We are so fortunate to be free to think as we do, say what we believe, teach our children as best we can. If there is anything I feel driven to do about our current state of polarization, it is to urge others to look beyond their differences, to ask questions, to stay curious, to be willing to be wrong, to admit we’re still figuring it out, to live in humility. How about you?

Susan Symington participated in a Better Angels workshop in the Washington D.C. area in July

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.