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There was almost no escaping the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A last summer, and it had nothing to do with their signature chicken sandwich. But recent news of an unsuspecting friendship marks hope for reconciliation, acting as a call to peace.
After COO Dan Cathy’s statements defending what he believed to be a biblical definition of marriage, a fire storm soon ensued, drawing divisive lines that went deeper than spicy verses original.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups claimed that the restaurant chain encouraged hatred toward the homosexual community. Others came to the company’s defense.
While the media proliferated the debate for months, Cathy and one of the leaders of the brigade against Chick-fil-A, founder and executive director of Campus Pride Shane Windmeyer, were taking the time to get to know each other through phone calls, text messages and personal meetings.
After keeping it mostly under wraps, Windmeyer recently came out about the relationship, giving hope that perhaps members of both sides of the argument can not only be civil, but maybe, just maybe, even like each other. Something we can all learn from.
Though neither of the men have given up their support of what they believe is right, their friendship is proof that differing perspectives don’t have to be the building blocks for walls between people.
Campus Pride has now suspended its campaign against Chick-fil-A, but Windmeyer admits that as a gay man and LGBT advocate, he harbored a lot of anger toward Cathy. In a blog for the Huffington Post, he said, “How could I dare think to have a relationship with a man and a company that have advocated against who I am….?”
However, when the restaurant mogul extended an olive branch with a simple phone call, Windmeyer accepted.
The pair engaged in conversation about their lives and beliefs, and soon realized that perhaps, their differences could be overlooked. Their friendship should be a lesson to us all.
In a time when politics, religion, social issues, war and a million other things threaten to divide people, it’s encouraging to see that two men, who have seemingly little in common, and champion opposing causes, can choose to find some common ground.
Often, today’s hot button issues place people in two distinctive groups – for or against. And while it’s OK, and even admirable, to stand for what you believe in, we should be careful not to allow a difference in opinion to create enemies among us.
Windmeyer said, “We learned about each other as people with opposing views, not as opposing people.”
The keys, he said, were a commitment to mutual respect, trust and communication. Through this, the pair realized, they were as alike as different.
“We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views,” Windmeyer said.
Building bridges can be as simple as starting a conversation, and who knows where it might lead.
Cathy and Windmeyer may never be each other’s best friend, and they will probably never find themselves on the same side of the marriage debate. But who knows? They may just find themselves chatting over a chicken sandwich and some waffle fries on occasion.