It's rare these days for people on opposite ends of the political spectrum to try to find common ground. But three years ago, 11 Kentucky conservatives rode a bus for 15 hours to meet a few Massachusetts liberals.
"We had folks within our community who said, 'You're crazy if you get on that van and go up there,'" said Gwen Johnson, one of the members of the Kentucky group.
Letcher County, Kentucky is coal country. It's Trump country. Leverett, Massachusetts is cobalt blue on the political spectrum.
"I was pretty darn suspicious," Johnson said.
Paula Green, who said she wanted to understand voters who supported President Trump, organized "Hands Across the Hills" to bring together two rural communities to work through their differences.
"We try to help each other that is what Americans do," a participant from Letcher County said.
They started their dialogue by sharing their families' stories. "People were crying within the hour," Green said. "Crying because family stories have joy. They also have a lot of shadow."
They eventually talked politics. People on both sides felt insulted, misunderstood. But the gun-lovers and tree huggers all survived.
"There was much more to agree on than there was to disagree about, and we quickly established that," Johnson said.
They've visited each other three times and have otherwise met via Zoom throughout the pandemic. Not to change minds, but to open hearts.
"And if we can dive under the vote and get into who the person is, something very different emerges," Green said.
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