Agreeable Disagreement

agree-disagreeOn a lovely summer’s evening last week, I was sitting on the bleachers watching a softball game and slurping a tasty pina colada shaved ice, when the friend sitting next to me introduced me to his neighbors who came by.

When they heard my name they looked surprised and said, “Kari Rich, the columnist?”

I answered with a guarded “Yes?” because I couldn’t tell which way this was going to go.

When they excitedly responded with, “Your column is the first thing we read in the Sunday paper. We love it!” I knew we would fast become BFFs.

We talked for a few minutes, then one of them said something that surprised me, “I got a kick out of your column about the art scene in Cache Valley which alluded to disdain for the sculpture choices on USU’s campus. I used to be on the campus art acquisitions committee and was part of the process for choosing the sculpture you referred to as ‘an order of fries.’” He chuckled as he said it.

I was taken back for a minute.

He wasn’t mad at me?

He didn’t hate me?

He didn’t write a bitter rant in the editorial section?

He didn’t leave a comment on my blog telling me to “Put on my big girl panties and apologize?”

Here was someone who could appreciate a differing opinion, even a satirical rib of his own opinion, and not go off like a grenade.

How refreshing.

He recognizes as I do that anything we put out into public domain is open game for the scrutiny of others. An example of how precarious this can be is illustrated in a story told by Benjamin Franklin.

A hat maker named John Thompson was ready to open a new shop. All that was left to do was make a window sign. He drew on parchment what he thought was the perfect advertisement: “John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money.” He sketched a hat below the words and headed across town to the sign shop. The story goes on about how John bumps into several acquaintances on his way who offer opinions about his sign idea. Change this and remove that, they hack at the sign until all content is completely removed leaving John with an empty page.

Exhausted and frustrated, John finally arrives at the sign shop and hands the owner the blank parchment. Confused, the sign maker asks, “What does this mean? What are you trying to say?” John shrugs and says he doesn’t know anymore. He tells the sign maker about his hat shop, the sign and all the opinions he got about it. The sign maker listens attentively then says, “How about, ‘John Thompson, Hatmaker, Fashionable Hats Sold Inside for Ready Money.” John agrees it is perfect.

John dared to put himself out there with his hat sign. My new friend put himself out there with a sculpture selection. I put myself out there with my writing.

We don’t have to like it.

We don’t have to agree with it.

It’s just really nice to be able to share a good laugh about differences of opinion at the ballpark over a shaved ice.

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