The other evening at the Chrysalis event, I bumped into my County Council representative, Calvin Ball. I actually walked towards him with arms outstretched because by now I know he's a hugger. I mean, I don't think he would ever hug anyone who didn't want to be hugged, but in general he's a hugger. and I'm fine with that. Later on I came across County Execituve Kittleman and he shook my hand in a friendly manner and actually knew my name (I'm in awe of people who can remember names, because I can't anymore.)
The piece de resistance was seeing Dr. Ball and Mr, Kittleman greet each other in an effusive, hug-plus-handshake combination. At least I think that's what it was. I was distracted by thinking about how people who have such opposing viewpoints must maintain a pleasant outward face in social settings. It's an art.
At my school we practice the Responsive Classroom curriculum, where children learn and practice many kinds of social interactions. We make the social/emotional needs of children a top priority. One of the games we play in Morning Meeting goes like this:
Would you like a handshake or a hug?
The question is passed from student to student and each one gets to choose. Later on when children learn how to resolve disputes, they will often ask:
What can I do to help you feel better?
And the other child may ask for a handshake or a hug. Or sometimes a hi-five.
I thought of this game when I saw these two elected officials exchange pleasantries at the Chrysalis fundraiser. Often seen to be political rivals, they still adhere to the social norms that look like Civility. Why? Is it because that's what the public expects?
Is the continuing practice of social niceties a sham? Would the world be better if we all just let it hang out and turned a cold shoulder to those whose views or actions alienate us? Is being willing to extend a hand of friendship/greeting under such circumstances a sign of weakness?
Is it all just for show? Or is it in some small way an act of faith that we, as a community, have hope that our differences won't destroy the things, however small, that connect us?