Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Go Ahead...Fool Everyone by Being Yourself!

Last night, my wife and I had dinner with friends. Afterwards, we trekked to a nearby Target store so that she could pick up a sale item she'd had her eye on for awhile.

I actually enjoy shopping, which is not something most men can say, I know. But the form of shopping my wife and I do is pretty harmless, especially at Target.

Whenever we go there, the first department we hit is the Dollar Spot. We always scan the clearance end caps interspersed throughout the store, occasionally finding a few real bargains. Sometimes, I like to go through the housewares with my wife. And always, as she looks elsewhere, I go to the books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Usually, we walk out empty-handed.

While looking through the media area last evening though, I found a rack of $9.99 CDs, including a "greatest hits" collection by David Bowie and Dark Side of the Moon, the 1973 release by Pink Floyd.

I own some vinyl LPs (or as a college freshman from our church once described them, "those big black disks with holes in the middle") by Bowie and had in an earlier time, owned Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on (I'm not making this up) an eight track tape. But I'd long wanted to buttress my CD collection with some of his work.

Dark Side of the Moon came out the year I turned twenty. At the time, I worked on the loading dock for Lazarus department store in Columbus and was able to use my discount on new LP purchases. (New LPs usually cost $4.27. With my discount, they were $3.87 apiece.) I'd heard the album played on the local AOR station and loved it. But I'd never gotten around to buying it. For thirty-two years, it'd been on my mental, "someday I'll get that" list.

Last evening, I snapped up both LPs and carried them, along with my wife's purchases, to the check-out line.

As the teller, a thirty-something man named Paul, scanned our items, I was distracted by something else, but became aware of his stopping the procedure to stare at me for a second, my new Pink Floyd LP in his hand. I turned to him and asked, "What's the matter?"

"You don't look like the type to buy something like this," he said.

Had my purchase been polka-dotted boxer shorts, Paris Hilton's autobiography, or the latest issue of Teen Vogue, I might have understood the guy's mystification. But I was dumbfounded by it. I guess my Oxford shirt, khakis, SAS shoes, and Steve and Barry's lined Ohio State windbreaker didn't seem like appropriate attire for a Pink Floyd fan.

I smiled at him and asked, "What do people look like who buy something like that?" Before he could answer what was admittedly a rhetorical question, I pointed out that this CD which had come out in my twentieth year was probably as old as him or older.

"Besides," my wife told him, maybe hoping to take the edge off my semi-confrontational tone, "so much of the music from that period is timeless."

It's amazing the stereotypical categories into which we can place people with just the slightest impressions. I'm as guilty of it as the clerk at Target, who didn't offend me, but did amuse me. We stuff people in boxes and so, sometimes avoid the messy and rewarding enterprise of getting to know them as they are.

What I have learned is that no matter how much the demographers with their stratified public opinion surveys may think they know about individual people, there's always some intriguing iconoclasm in each person that confounds and amazes us.

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Ohio and Michigan councils of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. (I'm on the board of our local club.) There were many intriguing people on hand. But among the most interesting was a seventy-seven year old, semi-retired businessman who has served on the board of his town's Boys and Girls Club for fifty-two years. I watched and listened to him in many of our small group sessions, saw him interacting with others, and had a few conversations with him myself.

The stereotype of a seventy-seven year old is of a sour and disengaged person. But not this guy! He asked questions of people and was genuinely interested in their answers. You could tell that he was out to learn new things that he could bring back to his local club which, in turn, would help the club positively impact the lives of the children it served. As I was getting ready to leave, I looked at this man and told somebody, "I hope that I live with that much joy when I hit seventy-seven."

I hope that I'm still listening to Pink Floyd too! I hope that I keep roaming outside the straight jackets of personal stereotypes others sometimes try to hang on me.

About three years ago, my wife and our daughter, then seventeen, were at a water park. Suddenly and unexpectedly, our daughter found herself face-to-face with rapper John Reuben.

"I can't believe I'm meeting you," she said, "my dad loves your music!"

Reuben was taken aback. "Your dad loves my music? How old is your dad?"

"He's forty-eight. Could you give me your autograph for him?"

For better and worse, we're all individuals. I agree with Rick Warren when he writes that God sets us free to do and be lots of things in this life so long as those things don't involve sin--hurting God or others--in the process.

Today, why not make it your goal to do one thing that expresses an aspect of your God-given personality that you may be suppressing. Chances are, expressing your uniqueness will be an act of praise to your Maker...and it will provide the extra benefit of mystifying others the way my purchase of Dark Side of the Moon confounded Paul.


Alex said...

It's rather fascinating that our brain tends to work in patterns and exceptions to patterns yet each of us as cry out to be recognized as individuals.

Away From The Brink said...

He can question your age, but not your taste. This forty-two year old is listening to "Breathe" as I type this.

I found a special remix of DSOTM at Best Buy. It has been remixed for Dolby 5.1 and sounds great, even on my standard two-speaker stereo.