I was in the grocery store this morning and as I came around the corner of an aisle, I saw a young girl – about eight or nine years old – with an older woman, who appeared to be her mother. As I strategically pushed my grocery cart around the two of them, I overheard them arguing about the size of a lunch thermos – Mom wanted to buy a big thermos; daughter wanted to buy a small one. Suddenly, the young girl burst into tears and yelled, “Mom, I just want to be like everybody else. Why don’t you get it?” to which I heard the infamous rebuttal of “Marla, if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do that too? ” At this point, I had passed the two of them but I turned around fast enough to see the inevitable roll of the young girl’s eyes and the mother’s resigned sigh of defeat.
Many things have changed over the years but this horrible, cliché response has woven its way through the fabric of inter-generational communication…or should I say, lack of it.
My mother was different – she was fine with her three kids “fitting in” with everyone. Let me give you an example.
My brothers and I were very young at the time. We were walking along the beach with my mother and my older brother starting boasting about the birth mark that he had on his neck. I immediately piped in with with, “Well, I’ve got a birthmark too” and proudly showed everyone the mark on my inner thigh. My younger brother, Brad, was listening quietly to the conversation but suddenly, he started to wail. He realized that he didn’t have a birthmark and this really upset him.
Here was the perfect opportunity for my mother to teach a grand life lesson about being different but instead, she picked up some mud, smeared it onto my brother’s belly and said, ‘There! Now you have a birthmark. You’re like everybody else.” That was the end of the conversation. Brad was satisfied and we all continued walking down the beach.
I was very young but there and then, I decided it was way too easy to be like everybody else. I wanted to be unique.
Fast forward forty-some years. Now I want to be who God has intended me to be – unique.
Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?
We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau