When we are young, we want to fit in so badly we will do almost anything. Whatever the fashions are in at the moment; we want to wear them and more importantly, look GOOD in them. If gold scarab bracelets are in, we want one. If the latest boy band, *Testosterone Rodeo, is playing in town, we want front row seats. If long hair is in, that’s what we want. If uber-short hair is in, we can’t cut it off fast enough. If thin is in, we will subsist on one cracker with diet peanut butter plus 10 glasses of water per day to get thin. See where I’m going with this? It takes a superhuman effort to be different at that age, and many just can’t do it. When we are young, we don’t always have the strength of character we develop later on in life.
As they say in the ads on TV and social media, just hang in there. It DOES get better, and you DO find your own style, your own way and your own voice. Look at all the different types of people there are–a magnificent explosion of size, shape, color, background, history, language and so much more! How much we miss if we don’t take the opportunity to appreciate all that wonderful diversity.
These days it is not at all unusual to see multiracial families, parents who put their names in to adopt only Downs Syndrome kids, gay couples who spend lavish amounts of money to adopt children from foreign lands, grandmothers who are raising their grandkids, people who make room in their lives for disabled teens, and the list goes on and on and on.
When I used to go to church I met a family, John and Lillian Messone (not their real names), who had adopted two Swedish/Japanese girls. They couldn’t have their own children, and they desperately wanted them. So they took these two little sisters into their home and their hearts. Through the grapevine, they heard of a 13-year old Latino girl who had given birth to a baby boy. Her family threatened to disown her if she didn’t give the baby up. John and Lillian adopted the baby, whom they named Jacob. Even at four months old, Jacob knew what it was like to be hungry, and all of us in church grew to recognize his hoarse and heartbreaking cry. That stopped quickly once he realized that he would never be alone or unwanted or hungry again. By the time I had moved on, Jacob was a husky, funny and endearing two-year old who kept his older sisters busy chasing after him.
And their story didn’t end there! John and Lillian took a trip to China to adopt a three-year old girl who had been abandoned on a bus. When they got there, a five-year old girl named Jade (who had been abandoned on a train) had befriended the little girl in the orphanage. They looked at each other, then at the director of the orphanage and said, “We’ll adopt them both.” So it happened that two brunette and hazel-eyed parents who wanted children ended up with two blonde and blue-eyed girls, a dark-eyed olive-skinned Latino boy and two beautiful golden-skinned Chinese girls.
More about diversity–there is the whole size issue. We humans come in all shapes and sizes. We can be as healthy and fit as possible, and still not be “fashionably” thin. We can be tall and gangly, short, muscular, gaunt, pear-shaped, apple-shaped; you name it. There are those who have been born with birth defects, or have suffered accidents, lost limbs, and so on. But we all breathe the same air, we all need encouragement, love, companionship, joy, and we all need to be valued for what and who we are. No matter what we look like, we all bring something worthy to humanity’s table.
Instead of us all picking each other and ourselves apart for our supposed deficiencies, how about we celebrate all of our wonderful differences? If we have a gap-toothed smile and freckles, celebrate them! If we are older and we have smile-wrinkles and age spots, celebrate them! If we are curvy, celebrate those curves! Big feet? Celebrate them! Curly hair when you wanted straight hair? Celebrate those curls! Big boobs, big butts, big legs, celebrate them! Small boobs, non-existant butt, knock-knees? Who cares? Celebrate them! When we hear disparaging remarks about ourselves; our size, our color, our sexual preference, etc., it is all about the person speaking, NOT ABOUT US. Whatever fears, doubts, inequities they feel about themselves, it bleeds off some of their pain to attack us. Let’s not hate them; just feel sorry for them. Life is way too short to waste time in tearing each other down, or worst of all, tearing ourselves down!
Different is good, different is special, different is wonderful, different is a testament to the glory of all the diversity on our little ball of mud. When I begin seeing and hearing about people celebrating differences, it gives me hope. I believe that we live in a time where we are slowly coming to the realization that we do not all have to be alike to like each other. Despite all the intolerance, hatred, bigotry and cruelty we see happening around us, there is also a growing groundswell of change. There is the start of a universal sea change, one that is more about fixing what is wrong, healing what is hurting and helping to build up ourselves and others in every way. The hand that reaches out to clasp another both gives and receives warmth. This is “different” in action.
So how about we just put aside those old Madison Avenue templates of what the perfect man and woman should look like/be like (and if any “Madmen” are reading this, I apologize if I’ve insulted you)? Let’s put down that poisonous glass of haterade and just enjoy being who we are and let no predetermined stereotypes stand in the way of our fabulous diversity!
Different is GOOD.
*This is just one of my made-up band names; this one is for guys. For girls, my group name is Estrogen Tornado.