I vividly remember the debate in Sao Paulo as if it was yesterday. The room was filled to capacity, yet it seemed as if there were only two of us. We clearly had opposing points of view. There was no common ground. Nothing could bring us together. I had given up on compromise early in the conversation. The tactic of choice came down to clout. Did he have it or did I. I volunteered to call the Vice-Chairman. As I was in his hometown, I knew he was a hero to everyone.
I reached for my mobile. I knew I had the key mobile number in my address list. As I reached for my pen to document our points of contention, a question came out of nowhere.
“What are you writing with?”
“What kind of pen are you writing with?”
“It is a German fountain pen.”
“Yes, I can see that it is a fountain pen.”
“What kind is it?”
I rattled off the make and model number.
“You realize that it is no longer made?”
“Yes. It was a limited release. I write with it because I love the weight, balance, and nib.”
I look at him, wondering where this conversation was headed. He gently reached into his suit jacket and removed my pen’s twin.
When a group of sailors arrived in port looking for a place to stay, the record documents the outcome of their quest. “We found Christian friends there and stayed with them for a week.” (Acts 28.14)
I was grasping for a point of common ground. As I stared, stunned by the sight, the questions tumbled out. Why did he have it? Where and when did he acquire it? Did he mechanically refill the ink in the pen himself? What emotions did he fell when he used the pen? It was as if we were the only people in the room.
“What were we talking about?”
Common ground, one discovered, can never be broken. It is a foundation that lasts in and through the differences we naturally have.