There's no doubt one of the thrills of my life is being able to get outdoors with a bow, gun, or rod. This time of year, I am especially nostalgic concerning this. When you get cooped up because of the weather you really begin to appreciate those things you are unable to do. This is when the gun and bait shops really come in handy. As I have said before, I am so glad these places encourage loitering. They know that many times talking about past adventures and future expeditions are a balm to our restless, outdoor soul. During periods of inactivity, I am drawn to these places just as much as I am drawn to the outdoors during better weather. We hunters always like handling a new gun or checking out the newest bait the pros are using to catch big bass. And then there are also the guys who, like me, have pulled up a chair at that local hangout. It's probably no different than when our grandfathers met at the local hardware and feed store to play checkers. This is really the best part about this kind of loitering. It's actually pretty boring if no one is there and I'm left to browse on my own. No, people are what make this place special - people from all ages, from all walks of life and from all social statuses. But we are all there because we have something in common. And while there may be conversations concerning some disagreements, it never seems to affect our relationship. It is as if what we have in common is stronger than what we don't like about one another. The results are friendships that are based on something far deeper than differences. I'm not even sure I know what it is, but I do know this; when I spend periods of time with someone, I begin to get to know so much more of them than simply a political or preferential label. I get to know them - whatever "them" is. And what I begin to realize is, their good qualities so outweigh our differences, I would be the one to lose by excluding them from my life. So, while I may still differ in some areas and even try to convert them to the truths I hold dear; my words will now come from a place far, far deeper than my convictions; but from compassion.