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Tuesday Tidbits :: On Conforming

Folksinger Harry Chapin wrote and performed a song called "Flowers Are Red". It's one of his lesser-known songs but has a powerful message that I think about from time to time.

"Flowers Are Red" tells the story of a young boy whose teacher punishes him for painting flowers in lots of colors. She tells him that flowers are red and green leaves are green and he has to sit in a corner until he gets it right. Eventually, he complies with the teacher's demands and paints flowers red and leaves green, exactly the same as every other child in the class.

Time goes on and the little boy moves to another school where his new teacher states what the boy had originally believed - that there are so many colors in the rainbow and that painting should be fun. But, by that time, the boy's spirit had been beaten down so much that all he could do was paint flowers red and leaves green.

I grew up lucky. I have a mother who has always encouraged me to express myself. When my jeans got holes in them when I was in junior high, she used animal cookie cutters to make patches for them. I wore them proudly and had so many people ask where we had bought them! As for myself, I rarely do the expected and it makes me feel good to think outside the box.

I was once given a plaque with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." I've always subscribed to this because I recognize that there are so many ways to view life and I believe it is our uniqueness that truly makes for a beautiful world.

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