Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bill Cosby, Mermaids, and Graduates

Mermaid by Kylie Alexander
I used to work for Universal…as in The Universal.  You know the one with all of the movies, music, and video games.  I was their National Implementation Manager for their lesser-known education division.  I had a home office here in Grant County from 1998-2002 where I would conduct my regular business between flying in and out of Indy and Fort Wayne airports.  Then one afternoon, something happened. 

I was watching Bill Cosby give one of his commencement addresses on C-Span.  He was telling a story of his college Psychology class arguing about whether the glass was half full or half empty.  Of course, the class couldn’t come to an agreement, so Bill decided to ask his elderly grandmother what she thought.

The conversation went something like this, “Gram, my Psych class was arguing about whether the glass is half full or half empty.  What do you think?”  After a long pause, she replied, “Well, Bill, I suppose it depends on whether you’re drinking or pouring.”

And, I know it’s crazy, but my life was changed that day.  It was then that I realized that I might be living in Grant County, but I wasn’t really a part of Grant County.  There really wasn’t one talent I had that was being poured back into my community.  And I felt bad about that.  Because mermaids have a lot to pour back into their communities; that’s what we mermaids do.  Or so I learned later from a story by one of my favorite authors Robert Fulghum. 

As Fulghum tells it, a young pastor finds himself in charge of 80 energetic children ages 7-10 one evening while their parents are off doing “parenty things”.  With a need to create some sort of organized chaos, he explains the rules of a game called Giants, Wizards, and Dwarfs.  “You have to decide now, which one you are…a giant, a wizard, or a dwarf”, he explains.   As the children quickly decide and groups begin to conspire together regarding their winning strategies, the pastor feels a young girl tugging at the edge of his pant leg.  With all of the innocence and confidence in the world, she asks, “But where do the mermaids stand?”  Sounds like a logical question to me, but the pastor thought otherwise.

She was told by the pastor, “There is no such thing as mermaids”.  But, as if educating this youthful pastor, she exclaimed, “Oh, yes there is, I am one!”

She knew she wasn’t a giant, a wizard, or a dwarf.  She didn’t quite fit into any of those confined categories, but she refused to leave the game like a loser would just because those that set the cookie-cutter rules weren’t aware of her uniqueness.  She had her identity, her dignity, and she wasn’t a quitter.  So, again she asked, “Well, where do the mermaids stand?”  Although she may not have been able to articulate it, she clearly knew there are those that are just a tad bit different, those that march to the beat of a different drummer, those that choose the road less traveled. 

“Where do the mermaids stand? Answer that question," wrote Fulghum, "and you can build a school, a nation, or a whole world on it."

In Grant County, we’re building a future on it.  You see, on Saturday night I had the privilege of attending Project Leadership’s Red Rubber Ball Banquet celebrating another year and the second graduating class of their successful 21st Century Scholars Mentoring Program.  The Community Foundation has been a part of this program since its inception in 2002 and is proud of the accomplishments they’ve made over the last ten years.

As I took my seat, I realized that I was in a room filled with future high school and college graduates.  They all have identities as unique as their fingerprints and great dignity in participating in all that Project Leadership and life has had to offer so far.  And none of them are quitters.

What we know for sure is that 25 of those students have just checked “Graduate from High School” off of their “To Do” list thanks to the support and encouragement of the mentors that have helped guide them along the way.  These kids have resumes, plans, and major goals.  They may not come from a two-parent home with the average 2.4 children and a white picket fence, but they work hard, are blessed with mentors who believe in them, and have dreams.  Big Dreams.  

And, these big dreams, along with people who believe they can achieve them, can make all the difference.  How do I know this?  Because when I re-read this Giants, Wizards, and Dwarfs story, I could actually hear the voices of a few teachers, and at least one counselor in my life, who said to me, “There is no such thing as mermaids.”  And, folks, I’m here to tell you, that’s simply not true.  Mermaids do exist. 

I worked hard, was blessed with mentors who believed in me, and had big enough dreams to tell them, “Oh, yes there is, I am one!”  And, guess what,  I had dinner with 200 others on Saturday night.  Thankfully, mermaids are alive and well right here in Grant County. 

Peace and Blessings,

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  1. Working on being a Mer"man", maid doesn't fit the mold...

  2. Love it! We have a mermaid in our house, and it's hard for her sometimes. We just keep encouraging her to be "her".