Monday, January 11, 2010

Unexpected Lessons

For 20 years I’ve been a nanny for one family. It’s a unique journey that few nannies have the opportunity to experience. I’ve been privileged to experience all kinds of lessons, but one that jumps to mind at this time of year is connected to the story of Rudolph.

Every year we watch Rudolph’s story during the holidays. Yes, the youngest who is 17 now still loves this tradition. This year I asked her why this story is such a favorite. I’m thinking that she’ll mention that it’s a fun tradition or maybe it brings back fond childhood memories or that she just likes that animation (she’s really into art so I’d expect this from her) – but I’m wrong she starts to talk about the lessons we can learn from the tale.

She’s absolutely right of course. Rudolph is different. Not just because he has a nose that glows, but he proves to have so many wonderful qualities – courage, loyalty, sensitivity, honor and tenderness that he needs to discover for himself. He has to come to grips with his uniqueness, embrace it and learn to use it to his benefit so that others can appreciate him more fully. His journey of self-discovery is touching and empowering. On his journey of discovery, Rudolph meets others who are struggling with the label “misfit.” They find that there are ways to fit in and to still be themselves, and that they have value others can appreciate. What a great message for all us.

As a high school senior this year, the 17 year old in my charge has come to realize that while differences can make this challenging they can also strengthen us. I totally agree. She has struggled with being labeled, categorized and is breaking out of molds others have put her in to begin her own journey of discovery.

Terms like “normal” or “typical” or “usual” don’t really apply to people very well. As individuals we struggle to realize our distinctive talents and interests while looking for connections with others who share those same talents or interests. Comparing ourselves to others – something we do as children and as adults – often leads us to feel like a “misfit” rather than accepting with who we are.

Our conversation started to branch out to other favorites of the season like Charlie Brown, the Grinch or Frosty the Snowman. We kept finding the same themes in different packaging. It was a fun exploration. The unexpected lesson is often the best. Keep your eyes open for some unexpected lessons in your life.

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