Expecting More Than to Coexist

coexist bumper sticker, expecting more than to coexist, loving our neighbors, red car with coexist bumper sticker, coexist foundation, expect more than tolerance, You know the “Coexist” bumper sticker? It bugs me. I think it’s simply setting the bar way too low.

We already live together with people of all different backgrounds, philosophies, theologies, colors of skin … shouldn’t we want more than to simply be able to be in the same space together?

In teaching our children about life, the tippy top lesson is really all about LOVE. Love yourself, love your neighbors. Manners, household chores, siblings, homework, athletics … it all boils down to love. Simply love. Coexisting isn’t loving, it’s eeking by. It’s occupying space side by side.

To be clear, I have nothing against the Coexist Foundation or their mission or work. There are so many organizations of good in this world, the generosity is breathtaking; I simply argue with the word “coexist” as being too weak and diluted.

Words like tolerance come to mind when I see the coexist symbols. Does anyone want to be just tolerated?

I see it as an issue of an open heart and an open mind, welcoming and accepting and cherishing each individual. We’re not going to bond, hit it off or even like everyone we meet but I live my life and teach our kids to live being kind and acting with love and respect toward everyone they meet. And everyone they don’t meet. Disagree, sure. Do it with respect and kindness.

There is an absolute need to be culturally open and inquisitive. That’s one of the million reasons I love to travel; I get to glimpse into different histories, different ways of life, different values. It intrigues me, excites me and makes me more curious to learn. It helps us grow when we can stretch beyond our own ways and ideas.tree with blue sky, white tree, white tree on blue ground, winter tree, leafless tree, birch, tree of life, humanity tree, coexist,

I feel the same way about someone who comes from my hometown, who lives down the street, who goes to my church, who seems to be similar to me. They’re still different. They have their own histories and life stories, their own experiences and pains, struggles, triumphs. Those stories and points of view are valuable and I love to explore and share in them, too.

We’re all different even if we fit tidily into a group with an identified symbol (yet, who can be defined just by one affiliation or one belief system)? We all have more facets than the best cut diamond, there’s no knowing without exploring and looking deeper. You can’t do that by just coexisting.

When I see the coexist bumper sticker, the only thing I like is the clever way they merge different religious symbols. I’ve even wondered if that’s the reason they chose that word for the movement: because it worked well to fit all those emblems.

But really, to me it’s like getting all dressed up to go out to a party and having your husband look at all of your beautifying efforts and say, “Let’s go, you look fine.” And I’m not talking about the “Oh, she’s so fine,” kind of fine, but the settling- it’ll-do kind of fine. Give me a clear descriptor please – cute, hot, ugly, old fashioned, go change … have an opinion and be clear.

Fine, tolerant and coexist are wishy-washy and mediocre terms without any real conviction.

I think what we should really be striving for is to live non-judgmentally. Don’t tell me how to live or what to wear, eat, drive, throw away, or buy and I won’t impose my beliefs and values on  you. You have your truths and I have mine and they’re both valid and worthy of respect. And living non-judgmentally  means to me that we care enough about both neighbors and strangers to provide the freedom to do what’s right for them and their families. I think that’s more than coexisting, it’s being compassionate; it’s trusting others and believing that people know best how to lead their lives as they chose.

scalloped heart, glowing heart, heart lit up, happy heart, heart crafts, childrens craft valentines day, stained glass heartWe cannot live without human connections. Whether it’s lifelong friendships and family ties or a one-time chat with the woman sitting beside you in the doctor’s waiting room, life is all about connecting and loving. It’s pretty easy to sit next to someone and coexist, all that requires is that I don’t punch her out or say something mean – like I said, it’s setting the bar too low. It takes more to love and be present for another human; to be open to a smile, a nod, a kind word or a passing “Hello.”

I need a whole page to explain my thoughts, a bumper sticker isn’t enough for me, but if I had to create my bumper sticker slogan it would say simply: Love.

I don’t want to settle for coexisting, I want to live life boldly, freely, passionately, and I want to connect with others, even if just for a fleeting moment.



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10 Responses to Expecting More Than to Coexist

  1. Sharon Couto - Mom Generations says:

    Your message is so powerful and big and yet so simple, too. It’s the “simple” part that often clouds people. I am a retired English/Reading teacher. When I had group assignments, I never let kids choose their groups; I always paired kids who would never pair themselves. There were always uhs and ohs and no ways, but after only one class group of talking, sharing, opening up, letting in, letting out, discovering… there was a newness, a meaning, a bigger circle of life. Co-existing is like sitting in a classroom with a group of people and being moderately polite. LOVING is accepting, knowing and learning to like or love our intimate world as well as our hugely external world. Wonderful post. I don’t see how anyone could disagree with you…

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Thank you, Sharon! We just read “One Thousand White Women” for our book club and discussed it last night, the idea repeats itself in so many areas of life: if people have the opportunity (like you created for your students) to know one another, negative attitudes and ugly feelings melt away. When I was in Vietnam, it was heartwarming, but not surprising to me, to hear so many stories of “enemies” befriending one another during the war – Americans who shared meals with Vietnamese families for example and built friendships.

      Thank you so much for your comments! I love hearing your thoughts – and I really look forward to meeting you in person someday soon I hope!

  2. Courtney Buteau says:

    You bring up great points and I definitely do not disagree with you. You mention things I agree with and hadn’t even thought of. Thank you for digging deeper and writing it in such a way that comes across as simple yet strong.

  3. I used to have a “Tolerance – believe in it” bumper sticker that was in the same fashion as the “coexist” one. You make some great points. I think tolerance is just the first step in a march longer journey.

  4. If you know me and my recent journey, you know that I agree with you. Thank you for this wonderful, deep post.

    • Leah DeCesare says:

      Yes, Chelley. I’m glad it spoke to you and it sure is relevant to your ongoing experience with people being unloving toward you and your family – you continue to handle it with grace and respect.

  5. Jennifer says:

    What a great post, Leah! Beautifully said. I am always bugged with “tolerance” as a method of teaching anti-oppression work. “Tolerance” or “Coexisting” misses so much of the point!

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