A friend posted a quote from Einstein to the effect that everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb trees it will spend its life thinking it is stupid. I’m not at all sure I got that word for word, but it’s close at least. She was applying it to her youngest daughter who is an artist, bilingual and reads on grade level. She also has Down syndrome so the application is apt. I love to see children beat the odds despite challenges. I would much rather see what someone can do, than hear what they cannot, as happened once when I was leading music for VBS.
But what hit me about the quote, wasn’t so much about disability, or even the fact that on some level, everyone has a strength. It was the part about the fish that got to me. It’s possible that those blessed with special needs children get it sooner than the rest of us that we should be looking for what people can do, instead of pushing them to fit some mold that may not be right for them. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything that would qualify me for special treatment, yet I relate strongly to the fish being told it was stupid because it could not climb trees. Do you?
My mom used to tell me I was an easy child to raise. I was the fourth of five and I was quiet, studious and usually obedient. So why should I relate to the fish? Well, it may be about cleaning house, at least partly. Both my older and younger sister were cleanie types. They were into picking up, throwing out, not collecting and the like. I on the other hand, usually felt I had better things to do than to spend my Saturday cleaning my bedroom. We did take turns and I did my fair share, but to this day, they can’t stand to look at my house, because I have books and magazines and papers piled everywhere. I clean on a regular basis, but navigate around the piles, because to this day, I don’t really have time to deal with them. It’s not that I haven’t tried, but when you work all day on it, such as when expecting company, and have only made a dent, it is discouraging.
I think it’s more than the fact that the piles exist that bothered them though. I think it bothered them that I could not simply become a high energy whirlwind and make it all disappear the way they would. I’ve never been a high energy type, and the older I get, the harder it is to summon up that kind of enthusiasm for cleaning. Cleaning is my tree. Personally I can’t see why they make cleaning into a virtue. The dirt always comes back, so there is really no eternal value in it that I can see. I’d much rather be reading, writing, or simply thinking.
You could see our different approaches after my mother died and we needed to clean out her house. My sisters approached the whole thing as a cleaning chore. We need to get the whirlwind going and get all this junk out of here. I would rather have had time to look over each keepsake, and see what memories it invoked, assuming I remembered the object. Or I might have simply held it and thought about how each trinket had value for my mother. I suppose if I had been in charge, it might have taken years to clean out the house, but my mother was an amazing woman. I have to think God would rather see my approach than hear my sisters complain about why she kept all this junk for so long. She kept it because it had memories for her, of course.
Obviously, in that situation, our different strengths complemented each other. One hopes they recognized that as well. I would hope we all could try to focus a bit more on each other’s strengths instead of complaining about our weaknesses.
I suspect though, that most of us can relate to the fish in some way. Someone along the way expected us to be different than we were and we felt their displeasure. Maybe we tried to change, but could never quite be what they wanted. Probably they thought it was for our own good, never dreaming that they were hurting us. What is our response now? Confrontation? Not likely to be helpful. Tall order, but how about choosing to forgive and looking to Jesus for healing?