We are all different in what works for us and what doesn’t. Some can easily take as a signal the experience of others and try it for themselves. Then, there are those who need to line up reams of unquestioned evidence and explanation before they venture into the new. Still others are somewhere in between.
I can remember the first time I started observing these fundamental differences in people. I must have been no older than 8 or 9 years old, already part of a neighborhood gang: similarly aged boys hanging together in search of mischief or adventure as an antidote to boredom.
There were five of us: me, David, Rudy, Mikey, and on occasion, Sam. Each of the five of us were so very different. David was the leader—in today’s parlance, the alpha male. He’d always go first if it seemed a good idea, or shove one of the others out into the firing line if the endeavor seemed a bit risky. Mikey was the patsy—the ‘woe is me’ fall guy. Sam? Sam would try or do anything regardless of how daring or dumb. Rudy was somewhere in the middle: cautious, adventurous, usually the first to be caught. Me? I was typically the instigator, the guy with the bright/stupid ideas to try.
I’ve told the story of the chicken ranch raid in my memoirs, 99% True. I probably left out the vomit on-demand story.
Turns out our friend Rudy could vomit on demand. Most of us could open our diaphragms and suck in enough air to belch on demand, but vomit? That was Rudy’s amazing ability. All that kid needed was a jug of water and a little egging-on and he’d puke his brains out. To the point of this post, each of us reacted quite differently to Rudy’s talents. To David, this was a potential weapon to be directed at unsuspecting people. To me, it was cool just because of the technical challenge. To Sam, he was hoping to appear disconnected from the act yet revel in the horror others would surely display as puke splashed at their feet. And Mikey…he was simply terrified we’d be caught, or worse, shamed. He begged us not to do it but felt socially shamed enough not to wimp out. He wanted only to be accepted.
There had been an annoying pack of similar aged girls nagging us for attention. David, ever the gang’s driving force, decided he’d end their quest—a perfect opportunity to test our new weapon. Of course you can see where this is going. And, yes, Rudy lured the gang of girls close enough to him to then make some awful comment about what he thought of the girls and vomited all over one of their shoes. It was an awful act that I have always felt badly about being a part of, but it does exemplify how each of us is so very different. David led the charge, I watched in disgust (yet couldn’t take my eyes off the carnage), Mikey ran home and was rumored to himself have gotten sick, Sam determined to learn the skill from Rudy, and Rudy, 6 years later, went steady with the girl whose shoe he soiled.
The point of this ramble, if there is to be a point, is how we’re all so very different and to celebrate those differences. I think it’s important to remember our differences—not in judgment as failings or envy—but as differences unique to each of us. This shows up in how our stereo’s sound, or video systems look. Different strokes for different folks.
Our personalities hopefully serve us well. Let’s be kind and generous to those unlike ourselves. They are neither better nor worse.
They are just different.