I remember the time we brought Cody the cat home. He was 4 years old when we got him. We had a dog, and unknown to us, he absolutely loathed dogs. All it took was one "wuff" from our Shari, then he spent the next few hours under someone's bed.
Until he realized that the dog could not get near him because we had installed a baby gate between the kitchen/dining room and the hallway which led to the rest of the house. Shari was too short to get over the gate - but he could easily get over it if he wanted. From that moment on, it was a circus. He would park his kitty butt down on the floor on the other side of the gate, and we could almost see him chuckle as he closed his eyes in sheer feline bliss while the dog whimpered and whined just inches away - to no avail.
That was the beginning of a real relationship between the two of them. They learned to get along, and we could eventually take the gate down without fear that someone would get hurt or "herded" into a corner - or scratched. The dog even learned to hold still while Cody washed her fur. To be sure, they weren't the best of bosom buddies. But they did learn to appreciate each other. And when Cody passed away last fall, Shari moped around the house.
People have been known to rise above their differences and embrace each other - if not as friends then certainly as "good enemies." There's a group of people I like to get together with on a regular basis. The members of this group are as varied and diverse as the cat and the dog - yet there is a cohesion, a sense of unity and community that is extremely compelling.
What holds this group together is not the differences in it but what is the same about each of the members. And that sameness of purpose, that commonality of emotion and experience, binds us together.
I've been in other groups where the unity is gone and people are at each other's throats over differences of opinion or style, differences in philosophy, hidden agendas, and struggles for recognition or power.
The difference - as I've come to understand it - is gratitude - a lifestyle of gratitude for the love and the sense of community that each person contributes to the whole. Celebrating rather than trying to fix each other's 'differences.' Respecting each other's needs. Building each other up to be comfortable in our own skin.
That's so worth it!