I woke up this morning thinking about presidential candidates throughout the history of the United States, and how they have the privilege to travel the country, hearing people's stories. I'm a psychiatrist, so naturally I love hearing people's stories. There are many ways to learn about the diversity of people living in the United States and to connect to their lives -- from watching documentaries to reading biographies. But nothing is as genuine as shaking someone's hand, sitting close with them, and hearing their personal experiences and perspectives.
I feel so privileged to have been able to hear many deeply-held personal stories. These shared stories are the greatest gifts I could imagine. The differences and commonalities are sometimes surprising, but they are invariably understandable and relatable. Through these conversations, over and over again, I am gifted feelings of connection and love. Though I never yearn for the stress or responsibility of holding public office, I woke up this morning wishing to be able to travel our country so that I can shake so many people's hands and hear so many people's stories.
In a way, many of us are about to have that opportunity. Thanksgiving is coming up. Along with the experience of family gathered around a table that is overflowing with food and gratitude, Thanksgiving often brings air travel. Crowded airports full of people from across the country. Blue states and red states, women and men, people of all races and creeds sitting side by side in rows of plastic chairs, waiting for delayed flights. What would it be like to turn to someone, someone who seems like they are probably very different from you, and ask them about their experience? And then, here's the really special part -- just listen with no judgment and no assumptions and really value what the person is telling you. What if you then shook their hand and thanked them for sharing?