Misfits

Posted on January 7, 2012

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Abraham Lincoln, source: constitutioncenter.org

We are a nation of underdogs. We champion the little guy, the small businessman, and the Horatio-Alger-couldn’t-win-but-does-with-grit types. It’s probably that scrapping history of people hewn as roughly from the wilderness as their log cabins were, chins turned up resolutely but glancing at the more elegant shores of Europe like a child with nose pressed against the glass.

Well, at least we used to be.

Somewhere along the way we grew prosperous and we changed, but not completely. We still think we are a nation that champions the underdog, though we want to make sure we pick the winning team and the winning candidate. We walk with chests thrown out when we talk about moral issues facing the world the way people with power talk. We bristle at the wealthy distrustfully, but we’re really more distrustful of the poor.

We’re in transition, straddling our future and our past.

A friend was telling me about a conversation she had with someone she’s mentoring. This person was sad and disgruntled with her responsibility and exclaimed with frustration that she was in charge of a bunch of misfits. My friend burst into tears because she’s of the age to do that more regularly, but also because it wasn’t true. This person is a gifted leader and everyone, including her team of “misfits,” needs a chance to make a difference; she has the prodigious skills to make that possible.

It’s not socially rewarding to be the molder of misfits in a world that is afraid of them.

Lots of people, mentors you might say, are passing through my mind tonight as I think about bigger things. Several people who weren’t gifted speakers but could bring water from rocks or move mountains or other such. One who was quite young, one who was almost completely uneducated. One, no two, actually three who were wild and passionate and handled delicate people indelicately. For some reason, God picked the misfits.

Apparently, misfits listen better, so they learn faster. I’ve never heard of anyone who “fit” moving a mountain.

I’m thinking a great deal that some kinds of evolution are unproductive. I think there is delicacy, the kind that makes us more aware of one another, and there is delicacy that makes us proud and contemptuous of others not so delicate (or educated or well-off or respectable). I’m thinking there is great power in being freed from scrapping for basic needs, but frightening power in not having to think about daily needs. I’m interested that of all the different kinds of -ites, economic -ites (classes) are the most destructive. Perhaps we’d better be careful how wealthy we get and how smoothly we “fit.”

Embrace a misfit. It may be what saves us all.

Daniel Chester French, sculptor, Lincoln Memorial

And no, this is not about politics or an election. It’s about tomorrow morning on the bus, watching the news, or watching a grade school production. Misfits abound. Long live misfitedness.

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