What’s Your Chance Encounter with Difference?

by Susan Leem, associate producer

In my late teensOur thought experiment for the week: draw on your own memories of a simple human encounter — unlikely relationships with non-like-minded people — that you may not have pondered as formative and important.

Listen to Anthony Appiah's story — recounted in the audio above (mp3, 1:17) — about his neighbor. Before he became a renowned philosopher, he described himself as a “lefty” kid who became very fond of a “right-wing” neighbor and member of British Parliament despite their very disparate views. And it was luck that brought the pair together.

How might we encourage or inspire these kinds of encounters in our own lives, or for our children? Share your thoughts here and let’s talk about these chance encounters together.

And for those of you who prefer to read it rather than hear it, here’s the transcript:

"One of the great lessons of my childhood of which I’m extremely grateful for was that, when my grandmother got older, she moved from the bigger house that she lived in into the cottage next door and she sold the big house to a man who was a member of the British Parliament and was very right-wing, but extremely nice and very nice to me.

You know, I had a subscription to the Soviet News and the Peking Review. I was a young lefty, but he was incredibly nice to me. He was not only nice, but he was willing to talk to me about politics and he was willing to let an 18-year-old whatever I was — young man — talk to him about politics and say things that he obviously thought were, you know, and he told me what he thought. He was frank. I mean, he didn’t pretend to believe things that he didn’t believe.

I learned a lot. I had to admit that I liked this guy even though I thought he was wrong about everything, and that was luck. It was luck that I had that experience when I was young.”

About the image above: Anthony Appiah in his late teens circa the time he met his new neighbor. (courtesy of Anthony Appiah)

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