Be Yourself: Three Brief Stories
The church I work for has a million children’s choirs. One for every age group. And every semester of the school year, the choirs put on a show for their parents and families.
I was present at the last one taking pictures for our Facebook page.
They started with the youngest choir – the 2-3 years olds. Those kids were absolutely adorable. The pictures of them are downright cute. They were laughing and smiling and waving and giving thumbs up to their parents. They jumped up and down as they sang.
Gosh, it was cute.
Then the 3-5 year olds sang and it was much of the same.
Then 1st grade sang. Then 2nd grade. Then 3rd grade.
And as the choirs transitioned to older groups of children, I noticed something almost heartbreaking.
All the pictures I captured of grade school children are boring. The children stood stoic and unmoving. They didn’t laugh. They didn’t wave. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades would smile periodically. But the middle schoolers? They were like statues with moving mouths.
At my church there are two young girls in elementary and middle school. They are bright and intelligent. And some of my favorite church services are when they read scripture.
The whole building stills in awe as their rising and falling voices paint vivid pictures of the past. They are serious, yet relaxed. The words turn into an epic story, rather than a history lesson.
They have no fear, so they never mess up. They never choke on their words, or trip over pronunciation. It’s a beautiful encounter.
When the adults read scripture, it’s so freaking boring with their monotone voices.
Directly after the previous two stories happened, I was driving into work when I passed a millennial walking down the sidewalk. He was a black man with disheveled, stylish hair, wearing a denim camo jacket and faded jeans.
He wore over-the-ear headphone, and he was clearly going somewhere but was also clearly dancing – making wave motions with his arms. His body following along. He had an enormous smile on his face.
I mean sure, maybe he was high or crazy, but I grinned when I drove by. He was familiar in some unplaceable way.
Be Yourself: One Brief Lesson
What do the first two stories have in common? The younger children are free. They are more expressive than older children or adults. They are darling and happy.
What does the dancing man have to do with it? Well, he was familiar because I had just seen him in the children. He was the same as them.
Often, when we see adults acting like children: carefree, expressive and doing things that are no longer age appropriate, we think of them as backward or behind or flawed.
But maybe we can learn from the children and the weirdos.
What Has Covered You Up?
So I’ve been asking myself, what has covered me up. Those children and that dancing man weren’t covered up. They were completely themselves, unmarred by social cues, peer expectation, and hidden rules.
They hadn’t been turned to the drones we are yet. Sure, we have our respective personalities, but we are not free. I am not free.
When I’m home alone, I sing. I sing as loudly as I can. And I dance. I dance all over the house, bobbing my head and throwing my hands up. The butterflies fly away. I laugh with myself.
Those are diamond moments. Almost impossible to coerce out of my coal coverings when I’m anywhere other than alone in my house.
Have you ever noticed how little kids just freaking run everywhere? Like why are you running little kid? But they do! They run when they aren’t even chased. They’ll run in circles laughing and hollering and having a good ole time.
Adults aren’t allowed to do that. There is some hidden, boring adult rule that says: hush now, sit still, don’t laugh too loud.
And those who ignore the rule? Well, there is obviously something odd and off about those people right?
Maybe they just aren’t covered up. They are certainly more free than I am.
Just Be Yourself
Ha that sounds so easy, but it isn’t. None of us are us. We were us when we were children. Before the world crushed us and put us in our place. Before we were shushed in class and forced to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day. Before people made fun of us for being ourselves and our parents taught us how to ‘act’ in social situations.
Now, we are what everything and everyone else made us. And that’s ok. It’s mostly just the way of the world. But maybe if we notice it and work against it and push down the fear of being unliked or weird, maybe then we’ll be carefree and content and uncover our essential selves.
I’ve been working on it. When I drive in the car, I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter the people in front of me see a crazy girl dancing in their rearview mirror. When I meet new people, I try to be completely myself instead of pulling on my ear (a nervous tendency I have) and drinking a whole liter of water in a few minutes (another nervous tendency I have).
I just need to relax and be me. It’s hard for an introvert. It really is too bad I can start each extroverted situation with a glass of wine. That always helps me be more of myself.
Anyway, how are you going to be yourself in the coming weeks? How are you going to uncover what the world has covered up? Leave me a comment or send me an email. I’d love to chat.