Earlier this week, my sweet and thoughtful 6-year-old grandson and his mom dropped by for a short visit. While the adults chatted, my grandson romped in the yard with our two dogs. As they gathered up to leave, this youngster reassured me with, “When you get too old for dogs, I’ll take them for you.” What?

I don’t know about you, but I expect that point to be a few decades from now. I think of myself as middle-aged. It is possible, if you factor in medical advances and believe in the probability that we’ll all make it to 120 in the near future.

To my mom, I will always be young. She feeds me every time we’re together. She worries about the details of my life. She wants to protect and guide, and I cherish her efforts.

My age is my age, right? It’s a hard fact. Indisputable, if you believe the birth certificate. The reality, though, is that my age filtered through the experiences, expectations, and beliefs of others varies widely. That’s the normal of our lives. We talk about facts, want to rely on facts, and get upset when the facts change or when other people don’t see the facts as we do.

Consider the divisiveness we’re experiencing in our community, our nation, our world. We’re so angry. Everything is clear to our own eyes. We don’t understand how anyone could look at the facts and arrive at a conclusion that is so wrong. How in the world did you just add 2 and 2 and get 19? Obviously, you just don’t have all the facts. Or you don’t understand the importance of the facts. Or maybe you just aren’t intelligent enough to comprehend? Oh, it gets very ugly, very fast. Maybe, possibly, you’re just looking at the facts through your different lenses of experience, expectations and belief.

If we have this kind of ugly division over documented facts, consider what happens when there is a whole new experience, where we have no history upon which to project the future. We look for similarities with other experiences and guess this situation may be like the other. Then the future (next week) gets here and it’s different from the projection. More anger – it’s just impossible to plan.

Someone ought to be able to tell us what to expect, right? Instead, we have experts on all sides each telling us something different. As we learn more about this new experience, each expert filters the little we know through their experiences, expectations and beliefs and arrives a different conclusions. Little wonder we feel like the ball in the pinball machine, bouncing wildly from barrier to barrier.

It’s hard to reach deep and pull patience and understanding to the forefront. It’s hard to reach for wisdom and try to make decisions for yourself and your family when the future keeps changing. It’s hard to give yourself and everyone around you permission to be unsure, and to possibly make a mistake. Yet, it’s our ability to do these very things, to let go of defending our “facts,” to build unity within diversity – that will make us strong as a community and a nation.

There are many things we’re getting to learn with the coronavirus. Maybe we’ll learn to accept one another and embrace our differences while we’re here.

Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.

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