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Bridge building with a bowl of ice cream

Finding things we have in common is worth the effort.

When I was four years old, I was introduced to Sam and Joe. I never grew tired of my mom reading the story of the big bear and the tiny mouse.

My family was military and for the first seven years of my life, we lived in three countries and three states. I was constantly being introduced to new friends as we settled into new neighborhoods. Some children I played with were next door neighbors in three story base-housing apartments. I met other children in the parks where military children and local French, Spanish and German children came to run, swing and laugh.

On Sundays we attended church. When we lived in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, we went to the First Baptist Church. But living on an Air Force base far away, we attended the protestant service immediately following the Catholic service in the same building Jewish families used the Saturday before.

Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse were quite different. It was obvious by the way they looked. But from the first time they met, they made the effort to become friends.

“Do you like to play ball?” the big bear asks.

“Yes. I love to play ball,” Sam replies.

Perfect. They would play ball together.

But, Joe loved to play football! Sam played baseball. The two were sad they could not play ball together.

Comforted by my mother, she turned the page and said, “It will be okay. Let’s see how these two become friends.”

I was reassured. I was learning a very important lesson.

But as hard as Sam and Joe tried, they could not find anything that they had in common. Disappointment followed with every page turned.

Joe wanted to live in a big house. Sam liked to live in a tiny house. Joe liked to bike slow and Sam liked to bike fast. Sam loved to beat the drum while Joe hated drum music. Joe passionately played the violin while Sam hated violin music.

So they give up. With tears in their eyes, they shake hands and say goodbye.

But instead of turning and walking in different directions, they begin walking in the same direction.

“Where are you going, Sam?”

“Where are you going, Joe?”

The two would-be friends each proclaim that every day at 3:00, “I eat ice cream!”

“What kind of ice cream do you eat, Joe?”

Joe tells Sam: “All kinds!”

Then Joe says, “Yes, every day at three o’clock we will eat ice cream together!”

It doesn’t take much to bring people together. You can find something in common if you try. It really is about a desire to overcome the road blocks with the will to build a bridge.

Despite all the differences that Sam and Joe had, the two new friends found the one thing they shared in common. And that was all they needed.

Jesus’s disciples were so different and struggled to get along with each other. But they found a shared focus. It wasn’t a past or a career or a hobby even, it was the One who told them of a future: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am.”

My wife Kathy gave me a copy of How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together this past Christmas in memory of my mom. Kathy wrote in the book, “What a heritage! How blessed to be introduced to Sam and Joe who looked for bridges instead of road blocks. What a lesson learned all while resting in the loving embrace of your mother.”

Interested in sharing time for ice cream? My calendar is open at three o’clock tomorrow. Let’s get together.

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