It’s the early 70’s, and the class has just been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We all take a turn. Most of the girls want to be a dancer, a school teacher or a nurse. The boys are going to be policemen, firemen and doctors. Finally, it was my turn and eagerly I answer, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, I just know I want to do something to change the world.” One boy laughs and asks if I also want world peace. I don’t respond, but think, that would be really great too. The teacher encourages me to answer again. I repeat, “I am just not sure, I only know that I want to do something that will help a lot of people.” She continues, “So you also want to be a teacher or a nurse?” Feeling a little pressured I reply, “I don’t know, just something that everyone can know about, something really big!”
Although I am usually shy, for some unknown reason the teacher feels that I am being disrespectful and asks me to visit the principal’s office. On the edge of tears, a teacher-in-training that day escorts me down the stairs and into the waiting room where two other kids are awaiting their fate after a fight on the playground. The teacher explains to the principal that my answer, or I guess lack thereof, has caused a concern. The principal, giving a puzzled look, clearly wonders why I have been sent to her. Without a word, she turns me around and sends me back to class. I don’t know the teacher’s name that is walking beside me, but to me her name is Angel.
As we move back toward the classroom, I am feeling sad. Just before opening the door Angel kneeled before me, and asked me to look up at her. What she said in that moment changed my life forever. “I thought what you said was beautiful.” Without taking her eyes off me, she continued, “Don’t ever try to fit in, if there is a bigger plan for you.”
There are so many times that her words have touched my heart and given me strength. In her honor, one of the rules for families is to Celebrate Our Differences. I was that different, somewhat unique child who wanted to change the world. I never saw Angel after that day and I have often wondered if she appeared only to give me that moment. That day I learned the power of learning to embrace and “Celebrate Our Differences” in everyone, including myself. When we celebrate the uniqueness and possibilities that every person brings into this world, we realize our limitless potential.
“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences. Our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.” – Judith Henderson