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The goal of Hands Across the Hills isn't to change anyone's mind. "We listen to one another, speak about family, struggles and our hopes. We speak face to face as human beings and discover what we have in common," writes Clayton.

Building a bridge across the countryside for talking in polarized times

Clayton, a novelist and short story writer, is among the creators of Hands Across the Hills, a group created to improve civic discourse between progressive and conservative parts of rural America.

Sometimes it seems the only thing blue and red voters share is mutual contempt. Organizations like Better Angels or Bridge the Divide try to promote civility by establishing rules for speaking together respectfully in a "safe" space. Their workshops, led by trained facilitators, resist ugly divisiveness. These organizations support an America in which people can talk to one another, and even debate, without demeaning one another.

Our project is doing something different and deeper. Here's our story.

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