Finding Common Ground with My Neighbor Charlotte

Older woman in a hat and coat

I met a “new” neighbor on my walk this morning. Charlotte’s a lovely lady in her 90s. She gave me a tour of her property, and we chatted about family (she and her husband have 13 children between them), music (she plays the baritone ukulele), art (she paints beautifully), politics (we’re appalled and inspired by the same things), and snowshoeing (we both can’t get enough of it).

I told her that “Charlotte” is my favorite name and that it’s the name of the lead character in the book I’m writing. She asked me what it’s about. I didn’t want to go into the whole “death and hell” thing for a couple of reasons. First of all, while it’s a significant portion of the book, that’s not really what the book is about. Second, I thought that the main point of the book was far more likely to be common ground between us.

I told Charlotte that the title is The Beginning and the End of Suffering. So many people wonder why there’s suffering in the world, especially when there’s supposedly an all-powerful and loving God. My book seeks to explain why there’s suffering and to share the hope that, one day, suffering will end; the universe will be restored to the suffering-free zone that it was to begin with.

Here’s where I got a surprise: Charlotte’s on a different page. She told me that she believes in evolution and that suffering is a necessary part of existence. She doesn’t appear to believe what I do about God creating a perfect world that became cursed by sin when Adam rebelled.

The experience taught me a couple of things. First, I shouldn’t presume to know what someone believes; they might surprise me. Second, here’s the safest common ground to appeal to: Suffering needs to end. Even if I’m wrong that there will be an end to suffering one day, I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone who doesn’t agree with me that suffering has to go. Suffering is our common enemy. It needs to stop.

I’m sure I’ll see Charlotte again, and I want to know more. When we have more time, I want to listen to her story. I want to hear what she believes and why she believes it. I’d like to know about her fears and her hopes.

I didn’t get much exercise on my walk today, but I got so much more.

One Comment on “Finding Common Ground with My Neighbor Charlotte

  1. Sweet story — and insights. I’m sure she feels much the same way.

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