The Paragraph

In October of our senior year in high school my sister and I moved from the town in which we were born to a new town because our father was transferred by his work.  However, we were not sad about leaving at that seemingly inopportune time, but we did not know why we were not sad.  Through a most innocuous situation, I discovered what was going on.

In addition to playing the organ in a church, I got a job in the new town as an usher in a movie theater.  It was rather boring, but I made was making a little money and not just sitting around home.  The job entailed working maybe three nights a week and on Saturday.

One Thursday morning during spring break  I decided to visit my grandmother who lived about 50 miles away.  That afternoon the manager of the theater telephoned our house and talked to my mother.  He told her that he wanted all of the ushers to come in that night to do some clean-up work around the theater.  She explained that I had gone to visit my grandmother.

When I went into work the next night, the manager was most gracious.  However, in the process of telling me that it was OK that I was not at the theater the previous night, he conveyed to me that he did not think I would not have enjoyed being around the other guys anyway because I was different than they were.

Before I went into work the next day I was sitting in my bedroom and the tears were welling up from deep inside me.  For I realized that I was just as different from the kids  in the new town as I had been from those in the old town.  And the pain was intense.  My mother witnessed my tears and did not know what to say.  So I wrote Miss Perry a letter and she wrote back the following paragraph which I have read a thousand times:

“What you wrote about ‘not communicating’ made a big lump in my throat.  I don’t ‘worry’ about you because I know you are solid enough in every way to find your own comfortable path in life, but there are times when I grieve for you and with you. Maybe I should have told you that the move wouldn’t solve the problem, but I doubted that it would because people are mostly just people anywhere on this big earth.  I do know that next year you’ll be going into a specialized field and be thrown with students doing the same, so I feel sharing a common interest will be refreshing, and friendships easier.  For you, I’m sure there will always be this loneliness because you’re not likely to meet and know very many people with as many superior qualities as God gave you.  I have to wonder if, being a creative person, God didn’t intend you to walk apart from the common herd.  You can’t write or play as you do and spend your time and energy as do most teenagers.  I wish you didn’t have to pay this price, but eventually (and even now occasionally) you’ll come to accept yourself and see that there are innate and vast rewards for such a dedicated of life. Take all of this for what it’s worth.  I speak from experience because I went through all of this–and I’ve spent 25 years seeing all of this in J.  So take heart, even if you can’t find any local yocal who has your tastes and your many interests, the world has never had a more urgent need of Randys!”

Miss Perry was obviously a fine writer so that in this letter her prose climaxed with my own name!! I have thought countless times of how fortunate I was to have had her for a sounding board for much of my life.  But I have also thought of the millions of people of all ages who have not been so blessed as to have had someone like her with whom to talk or write.

So that is why I am writing this blog–to share some of her wisdom, if only second-hand, and to let people know that there is indeed hope out there for those of you feeling all alone.  I have still had my problems along the way, but Miss Perry’s words, in that letter and elsewhere, have provided a context, a point of reference for my experiences.

Life is not a movie, but with the right perspective we can meet whatever challenges come our way, and do a second “take” whenever the road before us offers an unexpected turn.

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