I heard a story this past weekend that bears repeating. A local dignitary was asked to make a speech at an event that brought together folks from an old and distinguished organization. These folks represented the white and black branches of the same group – which have been separated since the inception of the organization. It was an historic day, as these representatives pledged to serve and play together in the future, working toward the unification of the two strands of their history that had been separated only by color.
The leader of the white group told a story about himself. While in college, he said, he loved to read the comic strip, “Bloom County.” This strip had many silly moments, but also shared some profound observations about the human condition, through the eyes of several strange inhabitants of said County: a penguin, a huge orange cat and a little black girl child, to name a few.
One day the little girl was drawing a picture and asked the penguin to hand her a particular crayon. “Which one?” asked the penguin? “Flesh” she responded. He handed her a pinkish beige crayon. That day’s strip ended without any words – just the image of her looking totally befuddled at the crayon – this was not the color of her flesh, you see – it was the color of the only flesh worthy of Crayola’s attention – at least back then.
The leader of the white group shared that the memory shocked him into a revelation. “What have I missed?” That was the first thought that crossed his mind when he remembered that image. “What have I missed” he has kept on asking himself, by seeing only pink, beige flesh as the definitive color? His comment initiated a larger conversation with the leader of the black group – and together they have committed to talking about all that has been missed on both sides of that organization…and how they might change that viewpoint for something better, broader and more meaningful.
Such is the gift of being challenged and unsettled by new ideas, especially those which sneak up on us, those which are carried forward in familiar packages. Something as simple as a silly comic strip can cause the scales that cloud our eyes to fall off – and we can realize what is missed when we choose to not even take a look.
This is one of those very challenging and unsettling times – when the familiar is not as familiar as it used to be…when there is more than enough new images, ideas, uncertainties to invite us to ask, “what will we miss, if we do not even take a look?”