I went to Lap Club today, despite the “mizzle” drifting down from gray skies. I checked in and got my volunteer badge. As soon as I turn left to head to the cafeteria, I was accosted by a brightly painted poster that announced “We Don’t Have to Be the Same!” And I thought, “Yeah!” And then, “What are we talking about?” Because school and many other institutions want to do just that: make us all the same. In school, we learn the same things, we eat at the same time. Heck, even the bathroom and water breaks are at the same time. It’s preplanned and organized.
I don’t think that part – the order and discipline – is such a bad thing. I can’t imagine trying to let a sort of laissez-faire attitude permeate the public school classroom. It’s too difficult, given the state standards teachers must meet, even if the kids were all at exactly the same level academically. Some structure must be imposed in order for teaching to happen. Kids need time and (usually) quiet space to learn.
What hit me with the sign is that everyone being the same is very boring. As I punched the kids cards as they came around the track at Loop Field, each one was dressed differently. One had a little Dora umbrella. It makes you a faster runner, I guess. Another girl has amazing long curly hair. One boy does 3 laps every time, without fail. He’s speedy! Other kids stopped on the track, stooping over to pick up acorns or colorful rocks. The gym teacher yelled at them. Others lay down on the track as if they were dying, despite the proliferation of puddles. Those kids got reprimanded also. I found it all highly entertaining.
The uniqueness is in us for a reason. I’ve written before about the Imago Dei. But it’s a real thing. Trying to be like someone else in looks or attitudes is hugely offensive to the Creator, I would think. Yes, we need to get along. Yes, we have good role models around us. I’m not suggesting that we can’t learn from each other. What I am saying is if we were all blonde, blue-eyed Vikings, where would the Asians be? If everyone was short like me, who would play basketball? Would anyone even invent it? “Eh, the net’s too high. Fuggedaboutit.”
Other times, people are held up as examples for us to follow. I liken this to “big brother/big sister syndrome”. “Look at Mossimo! He’s so faithful and responsible. He does whatever he’s asked without complaining. Isn’t he fabulous?” And then, suddenly, a tiny sprout of hatred springs up in our heart for that guy. He may never know, but *we* do. We’d like it ever so much if he got up close and personal with the undercarriage of an 18-wheeler. Our boss/pastor/parent made a fuss over someone and it wasn’t us. Agony! This was not the intention at all, but if that comment falls on a heart that already struggles with rejection, it is digested wrong. It goes down the wrong “tube”, so to speak. We feel condemned instead of encouraged.
This happens in churches a lot. We’re new; we want to be liked. We start acting like someone whom everyone else admires. Not bad so far, right? Except…maybe our strengths aren’t in children’s ministry. Maybe we have the gift of helps and would really shine as an usher or a door greeter. Maybe we have a heart to get new people acclimated and we want to take them to lunch after church on Sunday. If you feel compelled to “be like Mike”, you’ll never be the person you were meant to be. It all comes down to knowing yourself.
Let’s not compare ourselves with others. Let’s be our best selves. Take the good examples of others as guidelines and not chains that choke. It’s not time to conform, but to be formed. Let’s seek out what the Lord has for us and be content with that. We have things to do and people to reach in our sphere. Let’s take our unforgiveness and rejection to the cross and leave them there; they add no value. And be nice to Mossimo, for goodness’ sakes. Mom’s watching.