Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pensacola's Pearls of Wisdom: Celebrate your YOU-niqueness

Flex and Straight grew up in a little town called Carbon Copy where everyone almost looked the same, dressed in the same earth tones, thought the same, went to the same stores, socials, schools, and churches.

They also married the same kind of people and had the same types of families and this had been the tradition for many years. 

One day the Different family moved into town. They had a son named Too, who was about the same age as Flex and Straight. Straight didn't like Too right off the bat. 

First of all, he didn't dress properly, he acted different, and he had some bizarre ways of thinking. Too had a Sister named A. Little and a brother named No. Straight liked No better than Too and felt he fit right into their town as if he'd been there for years.

 It wasn't long before No was indistinguishable from the rest of the Carbon Copy citizens. It was not the same with Too. He was considered a trouble maker. He kept getting in trouble with teachers for thinking outside the box, with policemen for wearing forbidden colors, and with the elders of the town for liking "wrong" things. Everyone gave Too a hard time, even Flex who attempted to be friendly.

Flex was in the school band and they played the same music as the generations before them. But one day Flex was riding his bicycle and saw Too outside of town playing this strange music, called Jazz.  Flex started to tell him he could get into trouble for playing "that" kind of music, but instead he asked him what kind of music it was. 

Too told him about Jazz, showed him how to play, and Flex fell in love with the music. Flex learned that day that Too had traveled, with his parents to many places and met many types of people who played Jazz music.  He wanted to be a great Jazz musician one day.

Too showed him pictures and videos and introduced him to other members of his family. His father, Respect Different was an officer in the military and his mother Be Different was a college professor, who spoke several different languages.

After a very enlightening visit, Too walked Flex back to his bike. Flex said, "We've been really unkind to you. I bet you don't like any of us." Too shook his head,

"No, I don't have a problem with anyone in Carbon Copy."

"Really? Why don't you?"

"Well, my mother grew up here. Her name before she married my dad was Be TheSame and she bought us here so we could learn to respect people who are different."

"But we haven't demonstrated any respect towards you."

"I know; that's my point. My mother knew we would learn how to respect differences here in Carbon Copy where people didn't respect differences. She said some people get angry, violent, act unkindly, or with fear when they run into people that are different. She said they even exclude people for being different. 

But she teaches us, no matter what, don't let it change who we are. She said we have a variety of flowers, a variety of animals, and a variety of fruit and in each variety you'll find different kinds of the same thing. People are like that too; there are many different varieties of the same kind. What I know and the people of Carbon Copy don't seem to know; is that we are the same, but just You-niquely different. Some people are uncomfortable with different and some people simply don't like different."

"That's not true. We like your brother, No and your sister A. Little has some friends here too."

"It's easy to like people who are No Different from you, like my brother, or to be a little more tolerate of my sister, who is only A Little Different. Tolerant is a negative term to me, because it implies we should just put up with people who are different, Respect, on the other hand says we show consideration for those who are different. 

My father said, respect challenges us "not" on our similarities, but on our differences. I am too different for Carbon Copy. Carbon Copy wants everyone to fit into a mold that makes "them" feel comfortable. The problem with that is while it makes Carbon Copy people feel comfortable, it makes other people feel uncomfortable. 

For instance, everybody in Carbon Copy wears earth tones and I get a ticket for wearing a loud green shirt. Is it wrong or is it just different, Flex? Why should I feel uncomfortable about wearing a green shirt, just because everyone else wants to wear earth tones?" Flex looked at Too with new eyes. It was true. Too liking green didn't hurt anyone and it wasn't wrong, it was just different as he said. Flex felt his sense of adventure challenge by Too's revelation.

"I like blue." Flex looked around to see if anyone was listening to his secret confession. The two boys laughed. Too went back into the house and bought out a brand new blue shirt and gave it to Flex. At first, he was hesitant to take it, but Flex wanted to be open to new things that he knew could positively add to his life. Flex didn't agree with all of Too's perspectives about life and living, but he learned to genuinely respect their differences.

Flex and Too became friends after that and Flex wore the blue shirt until it practically fell apart. Straight never spoke to Flex again. Too Different eventually left Carbon Copy, but he had changed Flex' life forever. Flex held onto some of the traditions of his upbringing but let go of others, yet his changes threatened the people of Carbon Copy. 

Eventually, his own family and those he once loved and grew up with ran Flex out of town. It was then he understood what Too meant by being the same, but YOU-niquely different.  

Flex left Carbon Copy and went to find his old friend. Too welcomed him with open arms and later introduced Flex to Jazz artists all across the USA. Flex' world became bigger and he felt joy as he discovered how really wonderful variety could be when you learned to respect differences. 

One connection lead to another and another and each one was different from the last and Flex had learned a lesson that would carry him through the rest of his life. Without a bigger community you could become impoverished with narrow-mindedness. He now had a variety of friends and he had become richer for it. 

Opening up to the boy from the Different family allowed him to become a part of one of the best, most famous, and highest paid Jazz duos in the country today, called Flex Too Differ. Straight remains a Carbon Copy citizen to this day and still lives there on Narrow Street.
We are all humanly the same, but yet You-niquely different. God created different to teach us to respect each other, and to challenge our sense of adventure in life. Celebrate the YOU-niqueness in yourself and others!!