We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
I took my father to lunch this past weekend, and when I came out of the restaurant, and passed behind my car to get into the driver’s seat, I discovered someone had removed my Coexist bumper sticker.
It was a magnet actually, but had been on the back of my car for quite a while. I was very fond of it. I liked seeing it on other cars, and always knew when I saw it that we had a sort of camaraderie of hope as we drove along on our parallel ways to wherever it was we were going. It was nice to park next to another Coexistance fan. I knew they probably wouldn’t ding my car, or be a parking space hog.
It was reassuring to know that despite economic and social unrest at home and abroad, in spite of the boorish rhetoric of bloviating politicians, here at least, was some small gesture of tolerant sanity, a cohort in compassionate coexistence, a nod of understanding that, yes, at least we believe it’s possible. And it made me drive better – because you don’t want to cut off someone when you’re promoting coexistence right by your license tag.
And yet, for some reason, someone felt compelled to remove my peaceful sentiment from my vehicle. My immediate reaction was : “That was mean! I don’t want to coexist with you either!” I can’t imagine removing someone else’s “pray for peace” or “choose life” stickers, even if I don’t see those things the way they may intend them.
My next thought was, well of course I have to coexist with you. Because in the end, it’s not about a bumper sticker. One person may have removed it, and perhaps thought themselves clever for doing so. But coexistence means precisely that I can live peacefully with that person despite fundamental disagreements over the value of coexistence itself.
So I’ll buy two new bumper stickers for the future: one to keep in my glove box, in the event the new one I put in my car is taken again. If we can all find ways to coexist even when others would try to make it difficult for us to do so, then maybe we won’t need to identify our compassionate compatriots with signs on our cars anymore, because everyone will be part of the camaraderie of hope.