Archive - September, 2012

Choose your Chia

Not to sound all alarmist and whatnot, but the vote you cast for president this November is an important one. Maybe the most important one you’ll ever make. Because you’re not just voting for president, you’ll be voting for what kind of country you’ll be living in. The country is equally divided as to which course is better–more government versus less government, and how those choices affect every American.

As disheartening and depressing as it’s been to watch, I’ve been following this race closely. I made up my mind a long time ago. As for the undecideds? I’m sort of at a loss as to what they’re undecided about. Maybe they’re simply trying to decide between the lesser of two evils.

But regardless of who wins in November, the fine folks at Chia prove that catering to the needs of Americans obsessed with buying stupid crap is always a win/win. Yay capitalism!

Tina, me and the junior high bullies

Junior High Me

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grade year, I made a new best friend. Tina’s family was new to the neighborhood. I met her one day while walking to the local swimming pool. She was friendly, outgoing and funny. We hit it off immediately, and for the next few years we were inseparable.

When we started junior high in the fall, Tina was immediately popular. Not only was she friendly, outgoing and funny, she was also exceedingly beautiful–athletic but feminine build, dark hair, flawless olive skin and impossibly long eyelashes. She looked a lot like a young Elizabeth Taylor. That she seemed so completely unaware of her beauty and its effect on others endeared her to me and made her that much more popular. What took her completely by surprise was a group of older, much larger girls whose mission was to make our junior high existence miserable. She couldn’t understand why they hated her so much–she didn’t even know them, we didn’t have any friends in common.

Unlike me, Tina went out of her way to be nice to them. She smiled at them when we passed them in the halls. They responded by calling her names. She even went so far as baking them cookies and bringing them to school. Their response? They accused her of implying they were fat and threw the cookies back at us.

While all the drama played out, Tina kept a stiff upper lip at school, but I remember her breaking down in tears in the privacy of her bedroom. “Why do they hate me so much, Kathy? I’ve never done anything to them. I don’t even know them!” My response to her then was the same response I give now to those who wonder why there are those who hate America:

Nothing you do for them will soften their hearts towards you because they don’t hate what you do, they hate what you are. Furthermore, they see your attempts at kindness and accommodation as weakness, and that perceived weakness only strengthens their resolve to destroy you. (Okay, I probably didn’t say exactly that. I was only 11 or 12 at the time, but that was the gist of it.)

From that day forward, when they confronted us in the halls, instead of ignoring their name calling or running away, we confronted them. When they threw cans or rocks at us, we picked them up and threw them right back.

Tina moved again in the summer after 8th grade. The bullies did not. And while they gave me plenty of dirty looks over the next four years of high school, they never bothered me again.

They never stopped hating us, but once we stood up to their hatred, it lost its power. Once they realized what they thought of us wouldn’t change who we were, the bullies found another outlet for their anger.

Because hate for the sake of hate always seeks a vacuum to fill, and this world is full of opportunities to nourish it.

Remember the difference

Today and always

Remember the difference between those who sought glory by taking lives

And those who found honor in the giving of their own.

Remember that the battle between good and evil begins in each heart

For within each heart both dwell.

Remember those who chose good, and honor their memory

By choosing each day whom you will serve.

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Parts 1 and 2

The start of school for a 6th and 9th grader, both with extracurricular activities, has been kicking my butt. I barely had time to return emails, let alone sit down and write anything. I have had the opportunity to watch portions of both the republican and democratic conventions and the associated commentaries/opinions of the talking heads on both the left and right. I mostly steer clear of politics on this blog, but the discussions of what the government should and shouldn’t mean to us as Americans reminded me of two posts I wrote last year. If you’ve been wondering which side of the political aisle I gravitate towards, these should probably clear up any mystery:

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 1

image courtesy of photobucket.com

In 1992, Swiss author Marcus Pfister wrote and illustrated the award winning children’s book The Rainbow Fish, which was translated into over 80 languages and sold over 15 million copies. The moral of the story was “Love is giving a gift, not receiving gratification. Where the rainbow fish realised that giving of itself is better than being praised for its beauty.” (from Wikipedia) Pfister went on to write a series of books that addressed other topics: fear, acceptance, modesty and arguments.

While I do agree with the intended message, something about that book never sat right with me. So I decided to read it again. The following is an abbreviated version of the book which I feel hits on all the major themes:

In the deep blue sea, there lived a beautiful fish–the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean, with scales every shade of blue, green and purple with sparkling silver scales among them.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The other fish were amazed at his beauty. They called him Rainbow Fish. “Come on, Rainbow Fish! Come and play with us.” But the Rainbow Fish would just glide past, proud and silent.

One day, a little blue fish asked him to give him one of his shiny scales. “They are so wonderful, and you have so many.” said the little fish.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The Rainbow Fish refused. “Who do you think you are? Get away from me!” Shocked, the blue fish swam away. Upset, he told all his friends what had happened. From then on, no one would have anything to do with Rainbow Fish.What good were the dazzling shimmering scales with no one to admire them? He was now the loneliest fish in the ocean. One day he asked the starfish why no one liked him. The starfish told him to seek the counsel of the wise octopus, so the Rainbow Fish goes to visit the octopus in the dark cave where she lived.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“I have been waiting for you”, said the octopus. “The waves have told me your story.” The octopus told Rainbow Fish to give away a glittering scale to each of the other fish. “You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy.”

The Rainbow Fish didn’t think he could give away his scales. He felt he couldn’t be happy without them. Just then, the little blue fish returned and asked again for just one scale. Rainbow Fish wavered and gave one small, shimmering scale to the blue fish.

The little blue fish thanked Rainbow Fish and tucked the shimmering scale among his blue ones. A peculiar feeling came over Rainbow Fish as he watched the blue fish swim back and forth with his shimmering scale in the water.

Before long, Rainbow Fish was surrounded by other fish, each wanting a shimmering scale. Rainbow Fish began giving away his scales. The more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Finally the Rainbow Fish had only one shining scale left. He had given away his most prized possessions, yet he was very happy. “Come and play with us, Rainbow Fish!” And the Rainbow Fish swam off happily to join his friends.

The Rainbow Fish revisited, Part 2

Today, I will share my version of what the rest of this story might be…or not.

AND NOW…THE REST OF THE STORY:

As the Rainbow Fish was swimming around with his new friends, he noticed a blue fish without a shining scale. “Who is that fish?”, he asked one of his new friends. “Oh, that’s Seymour. He didn’t get a shiny scale from you.”

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Rainbow Fish frowned. “Perhaps I should give him my last shining scale”, he said.

“If you give away your last scale, there would be nothing special about you. Besides, Seymour said he didn’t want a shiny scale. He’s happy being a plain, old blue fish. Come play!”, said the blue fish with the shiny scale.

But Rainbow Fish was confused and curious why Seymour would refuse his gift of a shimmering scale and the chance to be beautiful like all the other fish. He left his new friends and swam towards Seymour.

“Hello, Seymour. My name is Rainbow Fish. Little Blue tells me you didn’t want a shimmering scale like the others. Do you not find them beautiful?”

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“Oh, yes”, said Seymour. “They are quite beautiful. I often admired your beauty before you gave them away to the other fish. Now I am wondering why you chose to give them away.”

The Rainbow Fish replied, “Those beautiful scales made me miserable and lonely. None of the other fish would play with me. So I took the advice of the wise octopus who told me to give them away. Now I am happy.”

“Was it the scales that made you miserable, or was it your vanity?”, asked Seymour. “You seemed to be happy until the other fish shunned you for not sharing your scales. Your beauty’s reward was the attention of the other fish. Once that was gone, you could no longer find worth in beauty alone.”

“But when I gave my scales away, I gave the opportunity for all the fish to be beautiful, and they loved me for it.”

“Do you think the other fish would be your friend if you hadn’t given away your scales to them? Is their friendship based on what you provided for them?”

“That I can’t answer”, said the Rainbow Fish. “But I’m happy I gave them my scales. Now we all are equally beautiful. But I still don’t understand why you refused a scale for yourself. Don’t you want to join us? To be beautiful, too?”

“To be honest, I did want a scale. Who would refuse such a beautiful gift? But as I was waiting my turn to receive a shiny scale, I observed each of the fish after they received theirs.

Little Blue, who had always displayed leadership and a quick mind, seemed to abandon his role as leader, so enamoured was he with his new found beauty. Mariel, who once filled the ocean with her beautiful voice, stopped singing and instead joined the shiny, shimmering dance of the other fish. Each fish, who had something special to offer forgot about their own gift in pursuit of what someone else possessed that they did not.

I may not be beautiful, but I am very agile and fast. This is my gift, and I am grateful for it. Your gift was your beauty, and while you are still beautiful, no more so than anyone else. What sets you apart now?”, asked Seymour.

“I suppose my generosity sets me apart.” said Rainbow Fish.

“You gave away your scales in return for friendship. You traded your vanity for acceptance. True friends would not require payment for their friendship”, said Seymour.

The Rainbow Fish was sad, but very grateful for Seymour’s honesty.

“I am going to talk to the other fish. I will not ask them to return my scales, but I am going to ask them to remember all the ways they are special and encourage them to use the gifts they have been blessed with. Thank you, Seymour!”

Seymour watched as Rainbow Fish swam towards his new friends, each of their shimmering scales reflecting the light. As the fish gathered around Rainbow Fish, the wise old octopus came out of her dark cave.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Living in darkness all those years had made her eyesight very weak, and catching her meals had become increasingly more difficult.

But now that all the fish each had a bright, shiny scale, she was able to pick them off quite easily.

She was, after all, a very wise octopus….