I have an apple tree in my backyard.

Actually, I have five. One is quite old and large, three others are smaller-sized and younger, and the last one is dead.

This fall, my family and I picked hundreds of apples to press and preserve, and after handling apple after apple, I started thinking about social capital.

Before you try to figure out how I made that leap in my logic, I’ll make it easier on you and just explain: Social capital is what allows a group of people to work together effectively for a common purpose, or to achieve a common goal. These days, it’s evident that America (the world, even) doesn’t have much social capital left. Our capacity to understand each other and work together is rapidly dying, and every political party and social “niche” of people seem to be living in their own separate cave without any desire to come together as a country.

It may be difficult, but I think it’s possible to get social capital back. And this is where apples come in.

To regain social capital, each individual must exponentially increase the positive connections they make with other people. One simple connection—even through something as small as the tiny stem that connects an apple to the tree—can create something amazing. It’s actually even more vital to make connections with people you disagree with and don’t necessarily like. If we just made connections with people who agree with us, what’s the point? If we want to heal this country, we need to make connections with everyone, regardless of their beliefs, by finding common ground. 

We can learn how to do this by looking at an apple tree.

The life-source of each apple goes back to the same roots – in other words, all the apples have common ground (literally). That common ground is what creates the apples. The source of life runs through a thick trunk, endless branching spreading out into countless more branches, finding its way to a pollinated flower and starting to become something that remotely looks like an apple. The life-force travels through the tiniest of branches: a stem, into the core of the apple, and grows it bigger and bigger . . . out of what? Out of mud and sunshine. 

If you were an apple, and if as an apple you could think, it would be easy to hang on your own little branch and look at the other apples around you, believing that they are in a completely different world than you are. You can be understood by the apples on your branch, so you think, but the apples on different branches are so different. They’re on a completely different level than you are, and you’ll never understand them.

Well, I’ve got some breaking news for you, my fruity friend. Each branch of a tree is exactly that: part of a tree. You are uniquely you, but you’re not so different from the other apples that you can never get along. You have your own life and your own experiences on your little branch of the tree; every apple does. Sometimes it may not look or feel like it, but deep down everyone can find common ground. Deep down, we all struggle through times of mud and bask in times of sunshine: they make us who we are. That’s our common ground, and we need to remember and use it to keep our tree alive.

In case you were wondering, I’m pretty sure you’re not an apple, and apples can’t think. But seriously, what would happen if we understood the whole picture? What would happen if we began to see the whole tree instead of just our narrow-sighted individual branches? What if we realized that we are all in this together? And what if we grew together instead of trying to cut each other down? When we harm a different part of the tree, we only harm ourselves.

So, how do we heal America? We must get social capital back—through finding common ground. 

Reach out. Connect. Listen. Understand. Agree. Disagree, but with compassion. We’re all in this together.