Kaleidoscope

            I was a sophomore in college when Kate and I had an apartment together; it was one of those classic college friendships of opposites.  Newly moved from Dallas, I laughed at Kate’s fear of crossing the street in the “big city”.  She was a stranger in a strange land.  Austin, Texas was a world away from her childhood home in rural Pennsylvania, and we had many long conversations about culture as she tried to take in the big sky, the obsession with pick-up trucks, and the giant glasses of sweet iced tea that seemed to appear at every meal.

            She swore you could read latitude just by the size of the tea glasses in the restaurants.

            We had more fundamental differences, as well.  She was struggling with identity as a child of a parent who had just ended a marriage and come out of the closet, her defenses of this newly discovered sore spot scanning every comment that I, raised by strictly religious protestants not known for their tolerance, made.  In spite of all this, we were great friends.

            One autumn day we were walking across the campus when she asked me, “Why do you always look at the ground when you walk?”

            The question startled me.  To be honest, I’d never noticed that I did this, but I instantly knew the answer.  “Because you never know what you might find on the ground.”

            Unsatisfied, she persisted.  “But you’re missing so much!”  She pointed out the birds in the trees, the group of young men playing frisbee, the world in general that she was obviously afraid was passing me by as I kept my eyes scanning the ground ahead of me.  “What do you think you’re going to find, anyway?”

            I probably would not remember this conversation with such clarity, but the universe has a sense of humor, and it chose that moment to deposit a dollar bill at my feet.  I pounced, held it up triumphantly in lieu of an answer, and we argued over it through the rest of the walk to the bus stop.

            The wonderful thing is that both of us were right.  I probably did miss many things by constantly staring at the ground, and from that day forward I made a point to look up more often.  Kate missed things as well, and not just of a monetary nature… fallen leaves, the scurry of a lizard sliding into a crack in the sidewalk, even the rainbow sheen on a puddle of oil had beauty if you looked closely enough.  

            I tell you this story as an introduction to our blog.  Among many things I learned in college was this life lesson:  We’re all different, we come from different places, we’re headed to different places, and we see the world in different ways.  I won’t pretend this was a new lesson, that no one else has stumbled upon it before or since, or that it was the last time I had to learn it. 

             But it remains important, because sharing our stories and viewpoints is one of the foundations of the human experience.  Read, remember, speak and tell, and see how we are all different and all the same.  I hope you enjoy this peek at the world through our kaleidoscope.

– Janet

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