(This week is the 13thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons4 About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates another pariable about being yourself. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
(French fashion designer and creator of the Chanel brand)
Lewis showed up in my grade-seven band class with a boy’s name and long hair at a time when almost all boys had short hair. In grade seven, voices haven’t changed yet, so boys and girls still sound pretty much the same. And, of course, you can’t tell by how they dress themselves.
Lewis was vivacious, even theatrical, as young girls sometimes are. So in this age of gender sensitivity, I was rather hesitant as I went through the attendance list for the first time and a girl responded to the name of “Lewis Scott.” I asked again. Maybe it was a “first day of school joke” and giggles would break out. Same response. She seemed earnest. The class was quiet, and all eyes were on us. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone on the first day, especially myself, so I went on. But I thought, Parents are so weird these days. Why would you give a girl two boy’s names? The song “Boy Named Sue” came to mind.
In the following weeks, it quickly became obvious that Lewis had a wonderful feminine energy, a great artistic sense, and a real love of music. There isn’t much difference in the way you treat boys and girls, so it didn’t matter that I wasn’t sure.
Lewis was a unique soul imbued with an innocent and forthright honesty, combined with a complete lack of reticence that was at times jarring, at times socially inappropriate, at times brutal. It occasionally got Lewis in trouble with other teachers, but mostly I found it refreshingly amusing in this age of politically correct dishonesty.
After about a month of carefully avoiding the use of personal pronouns, my epiphany arrived. Band class had ended, and students were collecting their things and moving on. Lewis bounded up to me in a very “Tiggerish” way and said, “Okay, Mr. Lee. It’s time for a game of Guess the Gender.”
This game show sounded ominous, but I was drawn in by Lewis’s joviality. Lewis grabbed Sarah by the arm.
“Mr. Lee, is Sarah a boy or a girl?”
“I think Sarah is a girl.”
I was certain that Sarah was a girl, but I tried to use my best “doctor” voice, expressing my medical judgment while still allowing some room for a professional difference of opinion.
“You’re right!” Lewis exclaimed, then bounded over to Robert and grabbed his arm.
“Is Robert a boy or a girl?”
I was safe so far, but I sensed I was being set up. Robert was a boy—no doubt in my mind. Yet I responded with the same circumspect, academic tone.
“I think Robert is a boy.”
“Right again!” Lewis was excited. No sense of bitterness or malice, just innocent fun.
“Am I a boy or a girl?”
I had been set up. Lewis looked at me expectantly with a big grin. The moment of truth had arrived. I was filled with both dread and relief.
Slowly I said, “I think you are a girl.”
“You’re wrong, Mr. Lee!” Lewis leaped into the air just like Tigger.
“I’m a boy!”
Naturally, I felt like an idiot—but a relieved idiot. Relieved that my uncertainty had ended and that Lewis thought the whole game was a great adventure. No hard feelings. He truly relished creating confusion and discomfort.
It was a Reflection and funny situation—one I chuckled over for years afterward—but it was also a great reminder to simply be ourselves. Lewis had a good sense of who he was and didn’t mind if others didn’t understand.
Each of us has a soul—that spark of the Divine within us. We can see ourselves as individual expressions of the Divine. Therefore, we are already perfect. Our job is to live in the world as unique and individual expressions of the Divine. Our souls come into our bodies with unique prior experience—somehow, somewhere. It’s one of the many reasons that no two humans are the same. I saw this vividly in our own twins. They had unmistakably different and unique personalities from the moment they were born. They seemed to come into this world with very different résumés. Perhaps that’s a strange idea, but it seems to be true.
We must strive to express our uniqueness with both confidence and love. I have spent large parts of my life trying to fit in—to be what other people wanted me to be. What a mistake. At some point, we have to figure out who we really are and be that person—not the person others expect us to be.
Like the song says, we have to make our own kind of music.2 Sometimes, other people have a tough time when we’re different from them. It’s human nature to like people who are like us and to fear people who aren’t. Our reptilian brain is irredeemably xenophobic. Being different in even the slightest way makes us a threat. Again, as the song says, “cause it hangs them up to see someone like you.”3
This naturally leads to conflict, so we must be careful not to overly antagonize others, to scandalize them, or to exaggerate the unavoidable friction between all of us. We can be ourselves—our unique expression of the Divine—with love, not with anger. At the same time, we cannot hold ourselves responsible for everyone else’s comfort or discomfort. Never shine less just to make other people comfortable.
Make your own kind of music. Sing your own special song. But don’t crank the volume up so loudly you annoy the heck out of all the neighbors.
Without being disrespectful or scandalous, we must figure out who we really are, or wish to be, and be that person.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon.