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We live in the Southern United States. We are not Southern. We enjoy it here but we are most definitely foreigners here. We are not conservative. We don’t own a gun. We aren’t baptist. We don’t have a drawl when we speak. We are patriotic but we don’t flaunt it. We don’t fish. We don’t hunt. We don’t even eat meat.

We’ve lived here nearly ten years, and while everyone has been warm and welcoming, because Southerns are nothing if not very polite, I cannot deny that it has been hard to connect with people on a deeper level because every time a conversation ventures near the topic of politics, religion or gun ownership, which are all hot topics down here, we find ourselves having to make a difficult choice to fall silent to avoid an argument or jump head first into debate.

Once someone told my husband that he wasn’t Christian because he is Episcopalian. He responded by remaining silent. I did not.

In addition, we find the continued self segregation that goes on here, disheartening. There are huge income disparities here that has something to do with this but some of it appears to be by choice. It saddens us because it seems to perpetuate an uneasy racial divide. We are not used to this. Nor do we like it.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I said that we enjoy it here. First let me say that no place is perfect. We understand that. Secondly, the weather is wonderful and the cost of living is hard to beat. The pace of live here is slow and easy and the fact that folks are polite is nice. Children here are taught to call adults “sir” and “ma’am”. It’s amazing.

But, the thing that I have come to appreciate most about living in the Southern United States is, that it has given me the ability to focus on the fact that no matter where people come from, and no matter what their very personal political or religious beliefs are, there is something we can all share, if we choose to, and that is the bond of human decency.

If you are a conservative gun owner, I will not hold that against you so long as we share this bond and as a result, perhaps we can forge an interesting and enlightened alliance anyway so long as we focus on our commonalities instead of our differences and so long as we respect each other’s differences.

Human decency is, in the simplest terms, kindness. It comes from knowing that at our core, we are truly all the same. The bond of human decency is one of tolerance. Human decency comes from a willingness to offer a helping hand no matter what our differences are.

The common bond of human decency should not be under estimated. It can sometimes be the glue that hold very different people together in unique and unexpected ways.