Different?

Are you different?

If you think about it, it’s impossible to answer because there’s something missing. It’s missing the thing you might be different from. Are you
different from Andre the Giant? Are you different from Bob Marley? Are you different from Optimus Prime? Now the answer is clearer and you could explain what separates you from each of those individuals.

I’m not seven feet tall. I’m not into herb. I’m not a robot alien trying to save mankind while hanging out with Louis Stevens. I’m different.

The Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines different as: Partially or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality: dissimilar (2) not the same as (3) unusual, special…

Unlike, dissimilar, not the same as, unusual. These ideas demand a definition of usual or a standard by which one would be similar to, the same as, or like. What’s the standard? Who defines it?

My friend, Ashley, wrote a post last night about her son, who’s autistic, spontaneously slapping her and the resulting conversation. She asked why he’d hit her and this is what followed. Read her words carefully.

His little face just crumpled. He started to cry and said through his tears, “I don’t know.”

I think it has begun. That part of autism that I’ve been dreading. When your child begins to realize that there’s something different. When he begins to realize that he doesn’t understand parts of himself.

Something different. I ask you, what’s the standard? Every one of my four sons is different from one another, and different from Caleb (Ashley’s son). At the same time, they are all very much the same. They love Finding Nemo, they enjoy playing together, they’re all on the same baseball and basketball teams, their dads love the U.S. Soccer team, their mom’s both went to Lincoln High School, they wear baseball hats, play in the dirt, wrestle, and prefer ice cream to spinach.

I did some searching and found a forum on the website wrongplanet.net. It’s an autistic community, and the following quotes come from a thread titled, “What age did you realize you were different?”

I remember this one moment when I was probably around 7 or 8, where I was playing alone in the school yard,
wading in this gigantic puddle and watching the water, fascinated. A small group of girls approached me, assumed I was someone else, and called me by another name and asked what I was doing in there. When I looked up at them and they realized I wasn’t who they thought I was, they backed away. – Dots

I think I was about 5 in pre-kinder-garden. I probably wouldn’t have realized it but other kids kept telling me that I was weird and picking on me. It really struck home when boys started chasing me home and one day they caught me outside of my house and broke my leg. I had the epiphany while standing there holding onto the monkey bars watching the other boys play ‘guns’ with my crutches that there was something very different about me. –Jedaustin

I was 22. People were always dropping hints but I never realized it.
“You dress funny”
“You speak funny”
“You’re weird”
“Why are you singing? – Pensieve

When I was 12, my peers were beginning to avoid me (some of them were actively ridiculing me, but, since I have a sharp tongue, it didn’t really bother me). I think it was because I was somewhat childish, while all of them were trying (but failing) to appear adult
at the time.  At 14, I moved to another part of the city and had to transfer to another school. I had already lost my friends from the other school and was expecting things to get better. Unfortunately (and, in retrospect, unsurprisingly), they didn’t. –Magnus Rex

I had inklings when I was four or five years old. As I grew older it became more clear to me that I experience life far differently than everyone around me. I felt extreme isolation and alienation by the time I was seven or eight years old, and those feelings have continued to this day. –The Bicycling Guitarist

It’s amazing how many people are saying they realized they were different in the 4 to 6-year-old range. It’s the same for me. I was around 6 when I realized none of the other kids liked me, and began having feelings of never fitting in anywhere. –LoveBirdsFlying

I was told I was weird too. Back then I hated being called that. –LeagueGirl

They backed away.
Kids kept telling me that I was weird.
You dress funny. You’re weird.
Peers were beginning to avoid me.
I had already lost my friends.
I felt extreme isolation and alienation.
I was around 6 when I realized none of the other kids like me.
I hated being called that (weird).

Weird is no different than unusual, dissimilar, or not the same as. It requires a standard, and the standard is apparently “me.”

This is why I reject “normal.” Along with its cousin “different,” they do more harm than good. Is it helpful for Ashley to be aware that Caleb and Grace (her daughter) process things in unique ways? Will it help them to know Caleb likes “X,” while Grace likes “Y?” Sure it will, but is that so different than any other parent having the same awareness about their kids. It’s simply appreciating that God makes everyone of us unique, and beautiful. Nobody’s normal. Every day in our house is an effort of mutual understanding and respect, just like it is in your home and Ashley’s. Yet somehow, as we walk over the threshold and into society the different and normal twins start bullying us.

Caleb’s just like me; he’s himself. Caedmon’s just like you; he’s himself. Toby, Andrew, and Jackson are just like their peers, all fearfully and wonderfully made.

We have to kick the twins out of our vocabulary, and prepare our kids to defend themselves against them.  Ashley kicked “different” in the groin when she did this:

So I gave him (Caleb) a hug. He apologized and I forgave him. He went on about his business like it never happened. And I went into my room and did the ugly cry.

She cried the tears of a storm survivor.

Tears that appreciate life but look out the window and know how painful this world can be.
Tears that fight to protect innocence, but are all too aware that it’s being lost.
Tears of a mother desperately trying to protect her son, but terrified of how daunting that task will be.

Perhaps we can help her, and other parents, in their fight. We can educate ourselves, and those around us, of those vile twins and their destructive agendas. We can place ourselves in environments we might deem different, and learn how normal they actually are. We can embrace the truth
that we’re all different, because nobody’s normal.

And it’s better that way.

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2 comments

  1. Thanks, Ryan! We love you guys and are so thankful for your friendship! We’re so happy that God brought you guys back to Tallahassee when He did. Hope we’ll see y’all tonight!

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