By WILLIAM HODGES
A family member had a baby. As a good uncle, it was my responsibility to visit the mother and new baby in the hospital. The father took me to the nursery, pointed through the glass and said, “There he is!” I know he knew which child was his, but there were 22 children in that room and they all looked pretty much the same to me.
Not to let on that I could not even pick out my own nephew, I quickly replied, “He’s the most beautiful child I’ve ever seen.” Then the nurse in the room walked over and picked up the baby and brought him to the window for our closer inspection. I was saved, not by the bell, but by the quick actions of that wonderful nurse.
Later in the day, I had a chance to talk with that nurse and asked her how she knew which baby went with which parent. She told me that in her 20 years of dealing with infants, she had developed a memory for which parent went with which child.
I wasn’t surprised she could remember the parents because they look different from each other, but I asked her how she remembered the babies—since one appeared to be a copy of the other. It was then she told me I was all wrong. She said the babies left in her care were all uniquely different and easily identified. It was the adults who looked and acted like copies of each other and were hard to place. It was her belief we all come into this world as a rare jewel, the likes of which has never been seen on earth before. What happens to us, once we are here, will determine whether we sparkle and shine, or we fade to a poor paste copy of the original.
I agree with her. We are born masterpieces of the first order—no two of us alike. But then it seems everything in society conspires to force us into a mold that tries to make us cookie-cutter copies of each other. I suppose it is simply that society cannot deal with that much original thinking. There is little question that it is easier to deal with a society where the members walk together in lock-step. A mentality that “one set of rules fits all” makes lawmaking an easy job. It also leads to abuses such as those that occurred in Nazi Germany during World War II, and as a forecast for the future in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which describes a nightmarish 25th-century Utopia where original thinking is banned.
As parents, it is our duty to help our children explore new ideas without stifling them. Let them push the limits of their knowledge by trying new things without our interference. I am not saying, however, that we should allow them to experience great hurt when we could prevent it by a few words of reason. I do believe it is important that we let them fall every once in a while so they will learn how to get up. To be unique, we must not only have a knowledge of the failures of others but a few of our own from which to draw.
I like what Herbert B. Swope had to say: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” The unique individual does not try to please everyone but endeavors to do what he thinks is right. That one trait by itself will make you stand out in a crowd.
When I was in college, an English instructor introduced me to a poem by Robert Frost that included the words: “I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”
Well, from then until now, I have traveled that less traveled path, and it has made all the difference. I am still an original. How about you?
William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Spectrum channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (Spectrum channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at hodgesvideos.com. Phone: 813-641-0816. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: billhodges.com.