Day #5–Share a story from your childhood.
By Ben Stoltzfus
My mother kindly took an interest in my education from an early age. She made us read before we started kindergarten, and then she also taught us in kindergarten. I was the first of the tribe and had the privilege of being her first home schooler, though not by any means her first pupil as she had many years of school-teaching experience prior. I believe I was one of her most difficult pupils, though. One instance serves the point well.
Perfectionists are frequently kind of hard to live with, especially when they are five. Coming in from the woods to do my home school assignments, before I was ever allowed to leave for the woods, always put our school days off to a bad start. At the end of my one school book there was a bright spot, however. A picture of a deer, my favorite subject to draw, with mountains and a sunset behind it filled the last page. It was a color by number. For at least a month before, a very long time for a 5-year-old, I was counting down the days. I could picture exactly how I wanted it to look!
Finally the day came. I got my schoolwork done in record time and was granted the long awaited permission to begin. I began with the background. I soon became incredulous as my mom who was guiding my progress pointed out that the numbers said the mountain was to be purple! I looked out the window. “Mountains are not purple!”
My mom was not about to be bullied by the sensibilities of a 5-year-old. She decided this was an area where I could learn to give in. “Everyone knows that mountains are purple,” she said. “The book knows better than you. Just go ahead and color it purple, it’s not a big deal.”
“No!” I said, “I can see they are blue.”
“Well,” she said, “Maybe some mountains are purple, color it purple.”
I refused. I remember still the frustration which filled my mind. I could NOT breach my integrity by coloring a mountain some sentimental purple when real mountains ARE blue! The incident did not end well. When an ultimatum was issued, I determined not to lose and, grabbing a black crayon, scribbled the whole picture out. No one would ever color the mountains purple!
I remember hiding under the table and waiting for Dad to come home and spank me. At least the mountains were not purple, yet deep in my heart I grieved that what could have been was never to be.
I still think mountains are almost always blue. Only at sunset when the orange dilutes their distant colors could they be termed purple accurately. Nevertheless, I am learning that not all of my opinions in life are worth the fight. Perfectionism is a gift to be exercised with deference and humility. There is space for purple mountains in the world. Truth can be seen from a variety of angles and insisting one’s own way is the only one, rather than being willing to try out someone else’s colors, tends to limit rather than increase its profusion. This is one of the hardest realizations for a highly opinionated black and white guy to accept. The battle between purple and blue destroyed one of the prettiest pictures I ever got to color. Being right is a meager consolation prize when it is all you have left. There is much richness in the diversity of beauty which we experience by learning from other’s opinions about the color of life, rather than insisting on our own. Perhaps that is one of the biggest gifts we can receive!