So, we know we can’t be friends with everyone. Sometimes it’s hard just to be kind to some acquaintances. Then again, it’s possible to love people that you don’t really like.

Around the holidays, it seems that all those things are exaggerated. Whether it’s work, church, home or extended family, we are bombarded with amplified social obligations. So, when we’re struggling in any relationship those issues can become larger than life.

By the time you read this, the Thanksgiving holiday will be behind us. Well, with the exception of leftover food and perhaps leftover relatives. I’m trusting it will be one of the most enjoyable memories of our holiday season. Both of our kids and their families will spend the day with us, and it’s always a casual, fun day. The younger grandkids will wear me out, but I welcome that kind of tired.

Then we’ll move on to other obligatory events. Even if we’re looking forward to them (well, some of them), the obligations are in front of us, as are some of our difficult relationships. Do we just get through them with a plastic smile on our face? Or can we make the decision to find joy.

A mentor of mine recently talked about finding common ground with people. I began thinking about some of the upcoming events and the situations in which I would be likely to pull out that plastic smile. Okay, I have been challenged.

First up is the office or church group party. Depending on the size of your group, these festivities can look a little different. If you are lucky, your gathering is full of people you know and like, but most are a mixture of people you know, people who you recognize but can’t put a name to the face, and the people you don’t recall ever meeting. Amid the festive decorations and tables of food I can see a few personalities that give me pause in my newfound goal of finding common ground. But I’m committed. I’m making myself a promise to have real conversations with people I think I have nothing in common with and to make a connection with someone. I will not walk away until that is accomplished.

Then comes the large extended family gathering. I think there will be more than 40 of us this year, representing three generations. We’re a lively bunch, with as many different and strong opinions as there are bodies. I do love them all. Some are just harder to love than others. Like the aunt that is just a little too critical of everything, the cousins that always seem to get a little too tipsy or the ones that reminisce about every surgery they have ever had. But, they are family and one day it might be me giving details of my last trip to the doctor to my great-grandchildren.

One of the things I most look forward to is hanging out with my favorite sister in-law. On paper, we have little in common. We disagree on the big stuff – politics, religion, but from the beginning we had some unshakable bonds, loving my brother being at the top of the list. Oh, and the Detroit Tigers, wine, good food, the Caribbean. Ah yes, common ground.

So here is your challenge. Dig deep and find the common ground – your life, and maybe someone else’s will be richer for it. Any takers?