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(HOST) Ruth Page thinks mere tolerance is cold and unhelpful. She suggests trying something warmer, such as friendliness, so that we and others can come to understand each other better.

(PAGE) Tolerance is touted as a virtue. We’re told to learn to tolerate differences among people, among races, among governments, and among abilities. Is tolerance enough?

I have my doubts. It isn’t tolerance that’s preached in most religions, but a kind of love, the gentle fellow-feeling people sharing a common home on planet Earth need to understand each other and develop friendly feelings. We’re all neighbors.

Tolerance is cold. It means “barely putting up with,” as in “I can only tolerate minor pain.” Tolerance hardly seems a way to get to understand our fellow man. “Tolerance” for another’s religion fences it off; we can stand it, but that’s all. Is that how most Americans feel about Muslims, and how they feel about us? Is it how fundamentalists feel about all religions but their own? If so, we’ll never learn to understand one another.

At the extreme is the prison system for the intolerable. It’s a sad necessity. Of course we can’t tolerate the worst behaviors. But there are less severe problems that a warmer feeling for our fellows might prevent. Can’t we tolerate youths who use small amounts of pot? Must we jail them? Maybe if instead we tried kindness, and took the time to show and explain the possible dangers of its use, some would understand. It would be cheaper than jail-time, and less dangerous in some ways.

In some cases other people in jail for minor misdeeds might be helped by kindness. Wouldn’t it be better to try to find the reason for the misbehavior, and see if we can prevent its happening again by helping the wrong-doer? Remember, it’s in jail that the young person learns from tougher inmates how to be a better criminal.

Too many Americans think first of jail for anyone who breaks the rules, so we incarcerate far more people than other developed countries do. Lock away the inconvenient, that’s the ticket.

But not the cure. Nor is tolerance. Something warmer is needed. Costs of building and guarding prisoners are greater than paying for a college education; prisons lead to recidivism, while positive assistance, friendliness, is more useful, and cheaper.

Many folks have helped prisoners start flower or vegetable gardens, or learn printing or other skills. Teacher and prisoner often become friends. Isn’t that better than each merely tolerating the other? Think how rewarding it is for a prisoner who has never succeeded at anything in his life, to be praised for his gorgeous tomatoes, or the monthly bulletins he produced. Self-confidence is the beginning of cure.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne, wondering if we should tolerate mere tolerance in human relationships.

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