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The Commons: Receiving the Wisdom of the Golden Rule

A meditation on creating a civil society

watercolor lotus flower graphic


Nine years ago, as part of a small entourage driving across the frozen tundra of Mongolia, I witnessed time and again how understanding the need to look out for one another in the subzero temperatures superseded any differences of language, age, or cultural background. I was the only foreigner and yet my hosts made me feel like an adopted sister. They treated me kindly, as one of them. When my Western, waterproof, minus-50-degree boots failed to keep my feet warm, they lent me a pair of local wool felt boots that succeeded. They laughed easily at my different perceptions, and the good-hearted treatment went both ways. Looking back, I see that this is what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the Golden Rule. It felt caring and gracious. It inspired gratitude. I also think it is a lot easier to perceive such behavior when you’re far from home and it’s abundantly clear that you are the “other.” I also reflect much further back on how one of my close friends once handled a dicey situation. From where I stood, it sure looked like my friend was getting the raw end of the deal, a point I raised repeatedl …

About the Author

As Deputy COO of Spirituality & Health Media, Meggen Watt Petersen contributes her expertise across the board, including to the editorial team. She has written on matters of interfaith or international relations throughout her career.

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