Differences make us stronger

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Mom used to say that it was our differences that made us stronger, and with five kids, she had a whole house full of differences to contend with on a daily basis. No wonder she was tired all the time. Of course, she’d usually say those comforting words as she cleaned and bandaged one of us up after yet another after school fight.

Oddly, most of those battles stemmed from derogatory comments made about those very differences that Mom said would make us stronger. I just wished she had told Down the Street Bully Brad how strong I actually was. He just kept focusing on the “different” part every time he beat me up after school.

If everyone in the world were the same, then the world would be a rather boring place. It is our differences that make us interesting — more words of wisdom from my mom.

With the many characters who lived there, growing up on Flamingo Street was anything but boring. And if you didn’t count our family, Goofy Steve and Bubba Hanks were at the top of the list when it came to being different.

Goof lived at one end of Flamingo, Bubba lived at the other end down by Old Mrs. Crabtree, and we lived in the middle. Every kid who lived on Flamingo seemed to fall into their own niche; Goof and Bubba were no exceptions.

Goof had a long spindly frame and looked as if he tripped when he walked, but he never did. The stumbling way he walked and ran, his difference, made him the butt of many jokes over at Mt. Olive Elementary school.

Fortunately for Goof, his art of foot misdirection also made him the best dodgeball player the school had ever seen. And when he reached Briarwood, home of the mighty Buccaneers, he became the all-time leading running back and receiver, a record he still holds even today.

Goof learned to embrace being different and took what others would consider to be a negative and turned it into a positive.

As lean and spindly as Goof was, Bubba Hanks occupied the other side of the scale. Bubba was not only the largest kid in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class, he was the biggest kid in all of Mt. Olive.

Rumor had it he was held back in the second grade because of a kidney infection. He was out of school for three months and couldn’t do anything but lie in bed. Well, he did something – he ate.

By the time he reached Mrs. Crabtree’s class, he outweighed everyone by 50 pounds.

Remarks about his size were the source of many classic battles between him and Bully Brad. Brad, too, had been held back, but it had nothing to do with his size. He’d repeated the first and second grade because of non-attendance, but we knew the real reason. Bradley McAlister was held back because he was just downright mean.

By the time Bubba Hanks reached Briarwood, he had a growth spurt, eventually ending up a six-foot-six and 250-pound senior. His great size, the difference that had been the focus of so much ridicule, had been the reason he was the greatest tackle that ever set foot on the hallowed Buccaneer football field.

A source of endless bone-crushing tackles, he received a four-year football scholarship to a top 10 university. He, too, embraced his difference and turned it into something positive.

The Founding Fathers made this country different from all the others, with decentralization of powers and policies, checks and balances and encouraging participation in the election process. The world now views America differently.

Good or bad, we have a President with very different views of how to run things. I just hope the world doesn’t want to fight us because of those differences. If they do, maybe we need to have them talk to Bubba or Bully.

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dawn69's picture
Submitted by dawn69 on Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:02am.

I was different too. In school I was in the Art Club, among other clubs, and in advanced art. All of my fellow art students were those that wore Sex Pistols shirts (for you older bloggers, that was a punk rock group), had multiple earrings, strange haircuts - Flock of Seagulls was popular, and often looked like something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Me, I was sweet and shy and dressed a little preppy - at least as preppy as my allowance would allow. One day Dean, his hair was purple that day, looked at me smiling and said "You're a little weird but I like you". I could not believe that purple headed boy called ME weird, but I guess to him I WAS weird.

One thing I know is that these art kids that everyone else considered strange were more accepting of me than the preppy kids were of them. These strange kids had, at an early age developed a pretty keen interest and some pretty strong opinions about the world around them, very different from the others that preoccupied their brain capacity with gossip and fashion. Like, oh my god, so totally rad man! Can you believe she wore the same dress as me! She's such a poser!

They were also the ones that were the least judgmental, the most open minded, the most tolerant. Oddly enough, one of these kids ended up at Emory, studied political science, and went to work for the Republican party of Georgia.

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