When I was in high school, a teacher gave the entire class an assignment to be a “non-conformist” for an entire day at school. The only ground rules were that we couldn’t do anything that harmed or disrupted other people or violated school regulations in any way.
On the day of assignment, I decided to show my non-conformity by wearing a bizzare outfit to school. A combination of pajama/sweatshirt thing that made me look like I just got out of bed. When I got to school, I discovered that many of my classmates had gone the same route —- they used their clothing to be a supposed “non-conformist’.
Hallways and classrooms were filled w/ kids dressed in ridiculous getups. Others had spiked hairs, shaved heads, total facial make-overs. There were others that sought attention through their non-conforming behaviors like doing cartwheels during lunch in the cafeteria.
Many of us simply went through the motions & shenanigans to “non-conform” & maybe buy some cheap laughs from our classmates.
But there was this one kid, Jay, who almost singlehandedly made this day, a day I’ll never forget. Jay wasn’t geeky nor was he popular. He wasn’t the type to garner much attention to himself.
He showed up to school that day dressed the way he always dressed, looking the way he always looked. But he raised his hand in one class (I think it was history) and did the “unexpected” and the “unimaginable”. He Stood Up to give his answer.
That’s right. He Stood Up. And when He spoke, he did so softly, earnestly, and respectfully. And when he did so, I overhead some kids say “is this dude serious?’
But all throughout the day, when he raised his hand & would be called upon, he’d Stand Up to show Proper Respect for the teacher and give his answer with utter sincerity.
And that’s not all. He would address the teacher as Sir or Ma’am. He would address the rest of us as Mister and Miss. And at the end of each period, he’d walk up to the front of the room and shake the teacher’s hand with a quiet thank you.
The whole thing was weird. And as the day wore on, we were expecting some kind of punch-line to his little ‘act’. But there was none he offered. By the end of the day, all of us had tremendous respect for what Jay was doing because it dawned on us that there was something Awesome about what Jay was doing in a Non-Conforming way.
Something Dignified, something Mature, something maybe even a little Courageous!
He was so purposeful, so outrageously respectful in his demeanor.
I can’t speak for the rest of the class, but by the end of the day, me and my friends thought that we had just witnessed the Most Valuable Non-Conformist in our day!
You see there are two kinds of difference in this world.
There is a kind of difference that Says Nothing, and there is a kind of difference that Speaks Volumes.
You can either try to gain attention & get people to notice you by being loud, obnoxious, or fatuous. (which by the way, everyone is already doing)
Or you can be Different and Make a Difference by being Noble, Pure and Holy for God!
The 2nd kind of difference reverberates and speaks into the heart & soul of everyone in this planet - - - for all of us know that we have seriously deviated and ran off-course to create a ‘norm’ that is indeed tragic.
- adapted story from “Different” by Youngme Moon