human condition 081218 (toned)

My wife and I recently hosted my uncle who came down from North Carolina to spend a week with us. He is almost 10 years older than I am, so he was away at college as I grew up and he worked and retired out of state. Our only contact was infrequent visits during different holidays over the past 60 years.

Despite the lack of contact, I always remembered how much fun it was to visit and how much he genuinely cared for everyone in the family.

He is a self-described “flag-waving flaming liberal Democrat,” while I am an independent in today’s toxic political environment but have been accused of leaning right. How would we get along for an extended visit?

It was wonderful.

We shared stories of personal tragedy and triumph and recalled moments of tremendous joy, as well as profound sorrow. We discussed the pain of losing close family members. We told stories about ourselves and about family members living and deceased, some of good deeds and some that should never leave close family circles. We laughed together and cried together.

It was interesting to see how various characteristics, both good and bad, of different family members have become such an integral part of who we are today. We even talked some politics, choosing to focus on the “why” of our different beliefs instead of just the “what.” We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

So what are the lessons from a long visit between two incredibly different people with limited contact over a 60-year period? There are too many to discuss, but a few seem to be the most important.

First, it is never too late to reconnect with family or friends, and it would be a big mistake to pass up the opportunity. Each of us has the ability to influence others, and we all are subject to be affected in ways we never could have imagined.

Second, despite seemingly insurmountable differences, if we focus on the “why” instead of the “what,” we will find enough common ground to understand and appreciate each other. We are all human beings with similar dreams, expectations and struggles who just want to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

Finally, time and distance can’t terminate relationships built on a foundation of love. When we live our lives from a foundation of love and look for the good in others, there are no differences too great to overcome.

How great would our world be if we all interacted with each other that way every day?

— Bienvenu lives in Prairieville

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