Dealing With Differences With Dr. Seuss

“And I began to see
That I was just as strange to them
As they were strange to me!”
-Dr. Seuss’ “What Was I Scared Of?”

I love children’s literature. Given that I have four young kids I get the chance to read a lot of it. I enjoy it (and feel it’s a sign of it being good literature) when the books I’m reading to my kids make me think and feel and connect with thoughts I have about people and the world. Living away from my country of origin in these rather dramatic first weeks of 2017, which have been full of unrest and confusion in some ways the world over, I have thought a lot about similarities and differences.
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Harmony of the Unique

Last week my women’s choir recommenced after its usual nine-month hiatus. Our director Emily is young, energetic, and somewhat silly (she usually directs children’s choirs). In spite of her light-hearted humor, she demands our best—not only as individuals, but as a cohesive group. Her choral warm-ups train our ears as well as our voices. With up to six voice parts, each woman’s voice has a unique range and quality, yet our aim is to train them so that each contributes to a harmonious sound—without overpowering the rest. What allows us to create the most pleasing, unified sound? Our director. We all look to her for tempo, volume, and expression. When each of us learns the music, listens to our neighbors, and follows Emily’s direction, we can enjoy the wonderful sensation of contributing to a beautiful whole greater than ourselves.
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We live in an age of openness. News, gossip, opinions, and images spread like wildfire over the internet. We put a lot of energy into curating Facebook walls and Instagram feeds to show our followers a desirable image. But watch out. One tweet can ruin your life, warns the New York Times. Years ago, a relative of mine who works in politics said something to me that stayed with me: “Operate as if everything you say, write, or type is tattooed on your forehead.”

As wives, friends, or mothers, we occupy powerful positions. I see my loved ones at their lowest, grumpiest, holey-sweat-pant moments. The annoying habit my husband has? Noted. The toddler tantrum over the wrong cup? I’m there. The parenting mistake my friend made? Saw it. If one tweet can ruin my life, I should be just as careful with others’ reputations.
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Be Strong and Brave

As I’ve gone through good and bad times in my life there are a handful of phrases from elementary school religion class that have never left my head. One is, “The Lord is always with you, and he will help you make the change.” One is the verse, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” And another we created in 4th grade religion class.

We read a story that prompted our class to create the mantra: Be Strong, And Brave, And Know the Truth, And Follow it! We spoke it in the style of a rap, and would march around in a circle reciting this phrase. The teacher would say: “Whisper it! Ok, now yell it! This time, sing it! Now whisper again!” He would also add his own embellishments to our “rap”. Be Strong, (mmm-hmmm) And Brave, (Oh yeah) And know the Truth and Follow it (Louder!).

I clearly remember having a sleep over with a friend from the same class later that year. Before going to her house over-night, we went to the movies and saw the movie “Tom and Huck”. For some reason the character “Indian Joe” from the movie really freaked us out! That night, we had to take her dog out to use the bathroom. It was dark and we spooked ourselves thinking that “Indian Joe” was going to pop out of the trees and scoop us up. We started chanting at the top of our lungs: “Be Strong! And Brave! And Know the Truth and Follow it!” Our fear that night turned to calm and giggles and we often recall the event with fondness. Continue reading Be Strong and Brave