I sit at my desk and wonder if any words will come to fill the page tonight. Just one more exhausting day in a long string of exhausting days has come and gone, leaving me staring blankly at the monitor. The police cruiser creeping through the parking lot reminds me that the early hours of the morning are passing. Most normal folks are abed at this hour of the day. Of those already under the blankets, a good proportion are probably sleeping soundly, perhaps even dreaming. I used to envy them. I have even attempted to be one of the normal ones, to no avail.
Over my years of life, I have come to realize that even though many go to bed and fall right into a restful sleep, there are also not just a few who, upon reclining on the mattress, suddenly find their minds alive with activity. Like a TiVoed program, these unhappy people review the day’s activities in their heads, or remembering some family member or friend who is embroiled in a tough situation, play out hypothetical scenarios and conversations in their minds, believing that they somehow may be able to aid in a solution. If and when they finally fall asleep, they will almost certainly awake with no memory whatsoever of the internal diorama which took place just a few short hours before. And, for these folks, it will probably be just that, a few short hours of sleep. The active mind is a fickle thing, opting for the most inopportune schedule possible. I am, of course, describing my own experience as I speculate that since it is true for me, it surely happens to other people. Perhaps not, but I like to think I’m not entirely alone in my odd schedule. As much as I protest that I am happy being an original, I think that no one wishes to be entirely unaccompanied in their peculiarity.
Being odd is a lonely way of life, a path I think none of us would purposely choose to walk. I know whereof I speak, having been somewhat of an oddball all my life. Don’t laugh! You know it’s true. But, I’m not actually thinking of myself here. I pause for a moment as I write, and I can still see him in my memory. It was a perfect early summer evening and the beautiful young lady and I were not wasting a moment of it. The old Chevy Nova was parked over by the basketball courts, as it often was, and we wandered down the concrete walk that meandered alongside the creek. The frogs were in full voice on up the winding waterway (away from the humans), and the cicadas whirred noisily in the trees. Not much took my attention away from the pretty red-headed girl at my side, but there were a couple of intrusions that I still remember vividly. As we strolled along, arms around each other, a silver and maroon sedan eased down the road that ran alongside the park, tooting its horn loudly. My brother and his wife knew we were in the park somewhere (the yellow Nova was hard to miss) and they weren’t going to pass up a chance to aggravate little brother and his sweetheart.
The second intrusion came in the form of a nearly inaudible ten-speed bicycle which sped toward us in the twilight. We couldn’t see a face, since the rider never lifted his head from over the drop-handlebars, but the young man and his bicycle were both familiar to us. As he approached, I raised my hand (the free one), and spoke briefly. “Hi, Bobby!” There was no reply, no head bob, not even the slightest sign of acknowledgement of my greeting. Bobby (obviously, not his real name), you see, was a painfully shy young man. He had gone through his schooldays silently; never speaking to his teachers unless absolutely necessary. Even with the other children, he was reticent to speak, saving his words only for the people he knew well and trusted not to hurt him. I wasn’t one of them, being a relative newcomer to the town at that time. I was never very shy, but I knew what it was to be an outsider, not one of the popular crowd. I determined that I wouldn’t stop being friendly and every time we would meet Bobby on his bicycle or on foot, head down and trying to stay unnoticed, I made a point of greeting him and asking how he was. It would have been easier to ignore him. No one would have blamed me. Many who did ignore him, figured he was stuck-up; a snob who thought he was better than they. He wasn’t and he didn’t. I don’t remember there ever being much of a “break-through”; never an event that I could single out and mark as a turning point. Over time, however, I started to hear a quiet, “Hi.” in reply. I even saw his eyes a few times as he glanced my way.
Odd ways are seldom the conscious choice of the people who have them. The hurt and loneliness that come along with the oddness usually compound the problems. Harsh words and tormenting attitudes seal the deal, sometimes for life. I don’t claim any big part in Bobby’s life, but it wasn’t too many years ago that we were sitting across from each other, talking about business. We were involved in similar ventures and openly compared notes. He trusted me. I enjoyed our conversation, by this time of life, as comfortable and normal as any between two men who had known each other for many years. It felt good.
I noticed that a friend took the time to write an encouraging post for her online acquaintances this evening. “You were created in the likeness of Perfection. You are fearfully and wonderfully made…” A respondent took the opportunity to blast a well-known political figure, saying that he “must have been exempt.” The politician is one I don’t admire much, either. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about his policies, the derogatory statement is wrong. Not one of us is “exempt”. We are, every one of us, fearfully and wonderfully made. Some of us make choices (or have them forced upon us) which move us pretty far away from the ideal. That doesn’t change who we are in the eyes of the One who created us. It doesn’t change how we, the created, should view any other of His created beings. Despite our differences, despite our oddities, each one of us is due the respect of our fellow man.
Sounds like this conservative old-timer is getting a little wishy-washy, huh? Not really. I still firmly believe the tenets I have claimed for many years. But, those are exactly the same precepts that demand that I respect all people, whether I agree with them or not. We’re cut from the same cloth, if you will. We can have a conversation about right and wrong, even argue about semantics, but in the end, we are, every one of us, created in the likeness of our Creator. Period.
I’ll keep my odd ways, thank you. I hope you’ll still talk to me. I’ll overlook your weirdness, too. I’m pretty sure that normal is a lot rarer than we think, anyway.
“When I was young, I was considered a rugged individualist. When I was in my fifties, I was considered eccentric. Here I am doing and saying the same things I did then and I’m labeled senile.”
(George Burns~American comedian and actor~1896-1996)
“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man…?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”