Be My Cousin?

Last week, I attended a conference in New York where I knew not a soul. As we all entered the main hall for the opening session, I saw two men greet each other with a full-body hug. As their embrace ended, I walked by and commented, “I love seeing the love!” One of the gentlemen looked at me and said, “he is my cousin.” As we chatted, he shared that he considers everyone in the room to be his cousin and asked if I wanted to join the family.

He is from the Middle East, lives in New York, and is proud to be a naturalized American. He has an extensive global family, and I am now honored to be a member.

As the day progressed, we had several moments to discuss what it means to be relations.  We agreed that the state of our nation is one where there seems to be little patience for understanding and even less willingness to find compromise and come together. Being related raises the stakes and demands we find ways to come together. Focus first on what we agree upon before moving onto the harder topics, he suggested.  

As we explore disagreements, most of us stick to our guns in terms of what we “think” is the absolute right which means that other’s ideas are the absolute wrong. Not a good way to find compromise

During one of the most perilous times in our history, Benjamin Franklin at the 1787 Constitutional Convention recognized that portions of the newly proposed document had sections he did not think would serve the new nation effectively. Others at the Convention had their concern about other sections. They debated, argued, dug in their heels. Could they find a way to agree on the important factors?  Franklin in speaking to the group told them,

“On the whole, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his infallibility—and to manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.”

The Convention agreed, and our Constitution has been our guiding instrument for the past 234 years.

These “Fathers of our Nation” were like cousins to each other and used that common bond to connect on the important work of the day in laying the foundation for America.

If we all thought of each other as cousins, we’d find ways to be more patient, understanding and strive to find ways to work out our differences and with it, strengthen our resilience and common connections.

As my new cousin said, we are all family.

© Richard Citrin 2022

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