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A few years ago, I was in a coffeeshop full of strangers. At a nearby table, an older man was being interviewed by a young woman. They were just close enough so I could almost make out what they were saying if I tried. I wasn’t trying. At some point, his cell phone rang. With an apology to the woman, he answered it.

He flustered through a short call and then said to the woman, “Well, apparently I’m a grandfather.” His daughter had just had a baby. Those of us closer to him whispered the news to those further off, and within a few seconds, the entire coffeeshop gave him a round of applause.

I would like to think that when someone says, for example, “I’m a grandfather!” or “She said yes!” that the natural human response is that of hearty congratulations. I would like to think that real community is easy to find, and toxic swamps of hate and fear only happen when something is broken.

Easy to find, but hard to maintain. Why?

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