Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It’s Okay to Be Different

“Sometimes being different allows you to be a person who makes a difference.”

I have always enjoyed meeting and getting to know people who are different than I am.

I like to know in just what ways we are different and then decide if it matters or not.

I had my first real job when, as a high school senior. I worked part-time at a bank. Of course, I had the lowliest of positions. I was given the job of operating a small machine that churned out nameplates. I don’t even remember how they were used, but I know the bank needed them and it was up to me to make them if I wanted to keep my job.  I had a very hard time learning how to work the machine.
A most unlikely person, the one who had held the lowliest position until I came along, taught me how to work the infernal machine. He was an older man whose name was Acey Deucy. He took me under his wing and soon I was turning out nameplates like a pro. Acey and I had many interesting conversations about his life – a black man in the 1940’s. I admired him and I remember hating the kind of life he had to live. Despite our differences, Acey and I became friends. He never complained about his life and he accepted me. I know he made me a better person.

Years later, as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker, I volunteered at what was then known as the Phoenix Center for the Blind. I was assigned to a table with seven blind people, all busily working with clay. As I looked around the room, I realized that all of the participants were partially or totally blind. A great many of them were mentally challenged. It took all the courage I had to stay, while my feet were screaming out to me to run. I stayed. It became a wonderful experience. I was accepted, as I accepted them. It was humbling in a way, mostly because they were all better at forming clay bowls than I was. I learned so much from their ‘differentness’ and treasure my time working with the blind.

Now, many years later, I am spending my time lending a hand and making friends with children, who are different from me. The Latino children and others at StarShine have helped me to appreciate their hard lives and learn about their culture. Once again, I was accepted.

 I do not know if I have made a difference in the lives of these ‘different’ people, but I do know that they all have made a difference in mine.

“In everything, no matter what it may be, uniformity is undesirable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting, and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth." Yoshida Kenko - Japanese author and Buddhist Monk - Born 1282  

By Lois Jamieson

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