Editor’s note: This essay is part of Deseret Magazine’s cover story “How to heal America’s partisan divide.”

Illustration by Kyle Hilton

During my time in Washington, I became best friends with former Congressman Trey Gowdy — someone whose background differed from mine. But my friendship with him taught me so much and exposed me to different perspectives. That’s something we can all do: expose ourselves to different backgrounds and ideas and learn to respect those we disagree with. Every American has a different outlook based on his or her experiences in this country, and that’s why I think all Americans can benefit from learning from each other. It is unlikely friendships that teach us and challenge us as people, and these relationships are one way we can help heal this nation. And there’s no better way to build friendships than by serving others. 

As a Christian, I know helping others is one of the core teachings throughout the Bible. It’s how we heal those around us and ourselves. Despite the challenges our nation faced this election season, it is important that we rebuild and unite as Americans; this begins as we reach out to one another and lift those around us. 

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I created my Opportunity Agenda for this reason — to help Americans who grew up in similar situations as I did and are living without hope for the future. Within my Opportunity Agenda are Opportunity Zones, distressed areas designated by states to allow us to foster entrepreneurship and job creation in neighborhoods that need it the most. Recently, we have seen 1,500 projected jobs coming to Hampton County, South Carolina. And currently Erie, Pennsylvania, is planning to tackle a 25-year revitalization project of its abandoned city in five years. In Charlotte, North Carolina, a group has planned to remodel a hotel, where it will employ and house homeless veterans. 

Not every act of service or gesture to help those in need has to be big. We can heal each other in small ways. It can be something as small as befriending someone from a different background. 

Sen. Tim Scott has served as the junior United States Senator for South Carolina since 2013. He is the author of “Unified : How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country” with former Congressman Trey Gowdy.

This story appears in the January/February issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.