While on a writer’s retreat Meeting with creative, intelligent people Engaging in meaningful discussion I met a lovely young woman. As I sat with this woman, warning bells clanged She spoke of her beliefs She spoke of her pain of isolation and rejection And of suffering caused by others’ judgments of her. Her beliefs were not mine But I was able to witness her pain I was able to see her fear Based upon her beliefs I was gifted with a glance Into this woman’s heartfelt angst As she stoically stood her ground Against vaccine mandates I was taken aback and relieved That I felt compassion Rather than anger In defense of my hospital colleagues I met her heart Before I listened to her thoughts Her opinions were not mine But I was blessed with the grace To keep my mouth closed To not “correct” her facts Insisting on my “facts” To not judge her person Based on her opinion I was blessed with silence As I listened and heard I heard her fears Her hopes And her suffering While stoically standing her ground. We came together a few times over the weekend In genuine appreciation for each other And the gifts we were sharing. Her ground was not, at first glance my ground There was a chasm between us Based upon our beliefs And opinions A chasm that could swallow the good, the holy Residing within each of us A chasm which has divided our families, towns, and states The ravine has been dug by fear It has been dynamited open By hate used to create division Innocent people have fallen prey To the power of those wishing our world divided Leaving a void in which power may grow. Innocent people have clung to their ground Fearing the cliffs of the chasm And the stones which are thrown at them In seeing the beauty and intelligence of this woman And the pain caused by this divide I was brought back to the early days of AIDs The fear, finger pointing and blame scourging our world I remember “Mark” The first person at our hospice to die from Kaposi’s Sarcoma All the staff loved Mark. Then we learned of AIDs and the connection with Kaposi’s Mark was our first AIDs patient. Fear accompanied AIDs The spirit of Mark helped some of us Be less afraid. We were blessed to know The beauty of the man Before the fear of the disease took up residence. So, I wonder, can we bridge this chasm? Created by fear Of other opinions, beliefs, politics Can we see all ground is holy ground? Can the tree of life Join the two halves of the divide? Understanding does not mean agreeing Understanding grows from listening With an open heart Listening to the person Hiding behind the fear Understanding does not mean agreeing Understanding can be a building block A cornerstone to the bridge The bridge to span the chasm Unite our ground And heal the divide Evil wins If we do not reach out To meet and understand each other And forego the diatribe. The hug from my new friend Was true and gave me hope That we, the people, Might once again Stand united.