“We Live in Different Towns, but Share the Same Home,” Nov. 13, 2012

There’s been a lot of talk in the wake of the election about how “divided” we are as a nation and all the ways that we are different. I want to talk about some of the ways that we’re the same.

I’m at the airport in Wichita, Kan., where my flight home to Las Vegas has just been delayed due to, well, whatever.

Why is not important. When is the question — as in, when will I ever get home? So far, the answer remains to be seen.

I spent the past three days in nearby Salina, where I spoke at a fundraiser for Women Helping Women, a grass-roots nonprofit group that truly and nobly lives up to its name.

I arrived at the airport an hour ago in plenty of time for the scheduled departure, only to be told the schedule had changed.

That’s life, isn’t it? Things change. I’m not worried.

If my flight gets cancelled and I can’t make it home tonight, I can always go back to Salina and somebody will take me in.

Seriously. I had all sorts of offers from people I had never met who, when they heard that I was coming to town, emailed to invite me to come to dinner or even sleep on their hide-a-bed.

If I email those folks to say I’m coming back tonight, surely one of them will offer to put me up.

Salina is that kind of town, the kind that can make a stranger — even one from Las Vegas, of all places — feel like long-lost kin.

It’s a great place, warm and welcoming, even if temperatures drop into the 20s, as they did this weekend, and you have to put on everything in your suitcase to keep from stuttering.

There are lots of places like Salina. I’ve had similar offers of kindness wherever I’ve gone to speak, from California to the Carolinas, Texas to Tennessee, Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Florida …

I spend a lot of time in airports. Wichita Mid-Continent is a perfectly nice one. But I’d rather not sleep in it tonight.

On Sunday, in Salina, I spoke in a high-school auditorium to a thousand or so people, most of whom have read my column for years in the Salina Journal.

I talked about the same things I write about — love and loss and life — and told family stories about the time my blind brother got drunk and tried to drive the car. Why my mother and her sisters quit singing for the radio. And how my sister once tried to shoot me. Yes, with a real gun.

All the usual stories that most families have in common.

At least, that’s what you’d have thought if you’d seen all those faces in the audience smiling and nodding as if to say, yes, absolutely, I and my family are just as crazy as you and yours.

We care, most of us, about many of the same things. We hope for our children’s future, worry about our aging parents, delight in our grandchildren and wonder if we’ll ever get to retire.

We might disagree on how to deal with the issues surrounding the things we care about. But when we talk about real people, rather than numbers, what they mean to us and how they make us feel, we speak plainly in a universal language and hear clearly with more than our ears.

In the everyday, ordinary matters of the heart, we are far more alike than we are different.

It helps, I think, to remember that. It helps to treat each other with a measure of respect and listen to each other’s stories.

We are all in this lifeboat together. We live in different towns, but we share the same home. Our elected officials need to remember that and find ways to work together. If they don’t, we ought to vote them out and elect some who will.

I hope to visit Salina again one day. But my flight is finally boarding. I am going home.

I will meet you there.


  1. I really enjoyed your visit to Salina. I am enjoying reading your book. I have it in my “library” lol!! Thank you for autographing it. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. We so enjoyed our afternoon with you at Central High in Salina! Now I am enjoying your book as well! Your column is the first thing I read on Sundays. I love the way your writing can make me laugh or cry or both. Your words paint a picture so vivid that I feel like I am there with you.
    Thank you for visiting us ! Thanksgiving Blessings to you and your entire family. xomeg

  3. I love your articles!!! I’m intrigued by Women helping Women! I was going to ask you about it and it just occurred to me that I could probably just Google it! Thank you for your writing! Valerie
    P.S. My mom is Davey in PG ; )

  4. Kim Thirkell says

    We were so blessed to have you here. Please come back anytime.

  5. I was so excited to learn you were coming to Salina. My wife got your book when you met with the ladies at the Salina Country Club and I look forward to reading it. I intended to give you a copy of my photo book–Journeys-Around the World–but decided not to burden you with it while travelling so will send you a copy along with a book my wife wrote related to our beautiful experience of discovering that our son was gay. It made the Reading List for Methodist women, is in its second printing and has been a true asset to gays and lesbians coming out to their parents. Thanks again for a very enjoyable afternoon of ‘Sharon’ stories. I NEVER miss your column!

  6. Welcome home, Sharon, and I’m really glad you mentioned Ohio.



  7. Kim Thirkell says

    I live in Salina, Kansas and we were so blessed to have you come to our little city to speak. I was in the audience with my mother and two sisters and we enjoyed you so much. Thank you for signing all of our books. My mother is the lady that needed to go to the bathroom – quickly. Thank you so much for being here and know that you are welcome back anytime!

  8. Sharon,

    Love the column! There is something special about those small towns. Hope you and your extended family have a blessed Thanksgiving…

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