WHILE AT LUNCH, someone at the table next to us said “It feels like we no longer live in a country that would come together when something grave challenges us. In the past, when we faced difficult times, you could count on people to unite and do whatever it would take to survive and persevere.”

People don’t believe the truth anymore, even when the facts are right in front of their eyes. Today, we are going through a nonstop condemnation of our past and people, their limits and ignorance. Reflection and honest debate are good, but not this constant bickering.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about the thread that unites us as an American people. That thread is a sign of a healthy country. The composition of America is changing. That thread seems to be missing. How can we get it back?

Think of the times in history when Americans came together simply because they were Americans. Regardless of background, they were family. Today, we seem to be more divided than ever, driven apart by opportunists who set us at each other’s throats.

The pandemic was one of those shared experiences that could either bring us together or tear us apart. Our response to the pandemic caused a million goofy things to happen. Some were life changing, others were insignificant and yet, they somehow feel divisive. Where’s the uniting thread?

Harvard’s Arthur Brooks worried about the echo chamber infecting social media. He said half of the people believe the biggest danger to America is the other half, not China or Russia.

I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the differences that keep people feeling disconnected from each other, but we can agree to disagree and do it respectfully. When people don’t see eye to eye, they need to keep talking.

We must understand how fragile our societal construct really is. Everything simmers just under the surface. If you see a problem, you can either complain or be a part of the solution. It’s important to decide then and there to become part of the solution.

It requires work to focus on the positive. It takes discipline. Hope is humanity’s greatest renewable resource. While we are constantly reminded of all the bad things happening, a lot of good things also are happening.

People care more about what their friends think than what some authority is telling them. Once we find something we have in common, we become human to each other. We start from that point of what we agree on. We have differences and we need to respect those differences.

Understanding people’s motivations and priorities helps us get people to a common ground. If we can’t engage in healthy dialogue, we can’t solve big problems. We cannot do nothing and expect change to happen. We have to stay engaged.

This century is the most consequential ever for our collective survival, according to Toby Ord, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. Across the world, 56% of young people feel that humanity is doomed, 84% are worried about climate change.

Ord said the five big risks we face are climate change, other environmental damage, nuclear war, pandemics and uncontrolled artificial intelligence. The risks we face today necessitate a change in how we think about our priorities.

We are inheritors of a vast wealth of knowledge. We’re also the custodians of that knowledge for our heirs, the generations to come. This is a critical moment in time.