I took the road less travelled by and that made all the difference! Robert Frost
I love story. Two stories that I used often as a teacher were ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and ‘Barrington Bunny’. Both have much to teach us. The Velveteen Rabbit focuses on a small boy who is given the gift of a fluffy toy rabbit whom he comes to love dearly. The small velveteen rabbit is with him through good days and bad, play days and sick in bed days, childhood and boyhood days. Over time and caressed by love, the rabbit became tattered and worn but ‘real’ for the little boy because the rabbit was always there for him, loved him and was true. The love and affection of the boy lead to the rabbit becoming ‘real’.
Barrington on the other hand is a bunny who is lost in a forest and who, despite being popular with the other animals wishes he were anything other than a bunny. All Barrington is good for is that he has long ears, can “hop hop hippity-hop through the deep deep snow” and is fluffy and warm. The Northern Hemisphere Christmas was fast approaching and all the animals of the forest were preparing to celebrate. Barrington was left all alone.
There is much more to this story but during a long Christmas night blizzard Barrington’s big ears prick up – hearing a far off and faint ‘squeak squeak’. Setting off through the blizzard, “hop hop hippity-hop through the deep deep snow” Barrington comes across a baby field mouse separated from it’s family. Barrington gets the mouse to snuggle up under his fur and long into that cold night Barrington keeps it safe and warm. His final thought that Christmas night, as he felt the tiny heartbeat of the field mouse beneath him, was one of gratitude that he had big floppy ears, could “hop hop hippity-hop through the deep deep snow” and was furry and warm. It is a beautiful story of giving and celebrating the unique gifts, that each of us has.
In all my years as a teacher, no student of mine ever looked to me to be perfect. They did not want the perfect teacher – though they had every right to expect that I knew my material. They did not seek me to be the perfect mentor: such a person does not exist. They did not seek for me to have the wisdom of Solomon in my deliberations. But what they did seek from me was that I be authentic, that I be real, honest and true.
There is no such thing as the perfect leader, parent, partner nor friend. As I reflect so often – we all have feet of clay. Many of us have lost confidence in political and religious leaders who appear to be puppets to the whim of big business, powerful lobby groups or have sold the courage of their convictions out to the latest polling from a PR company. During political campaigns whether in Australia or in the USA I am sure I am not the only one who channel surfs when the endless political advertising and commentary comes on.
“He is a goose! They are all geese!” “No, you’re the goose and what you stand for is rubbish!” “I know best!” “No you don’t, I know best!” “We have the answers!” “No you don’t, you just created the questions!” The diatribe goes on and on.
Constantly we have pressure on us to be what we are not. We are pressured to be someone or something other than our truest selves.
At one point our former Prime Minister was referred to as “Scomo from Marketing” while his opponent – our new Prime Minister – got the ‘new and trendy glasses makeover’. The perception (true or not) is that we don’t see the real person but that there is a well-worn track to the rooms of the media advisors, the political strategists and the marketing gurus who will tell you what THEY out there want to hear – regardless of whether you believe it or not.
So we wear masks, we hide behind them, we compromise what we believe, we make choices out of fear and we constantly avoid the sacred journey of authenticity. That journey – is so often too hard. The journey of authenticity is the “road less travelled by!” The journey of authenticity requires from us risk, self-belief and the inner freedom of the dreamer.
Barrington and the Velveteen Rabbit helped teach me that my gift (and yours), my sacred journey (and yours), my greatest task (and yours) is to be me – and strive to be my best me. We have to listen deeply to and for the whisper of our true voice. We have to find the courage to humbly and yet proudly say by word and deed – this is me!
“I shall be telling this with a sigh – somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference!” Robert Frost
Yes, no student of mine ever looked to me to be perfect. But like the final scene in the movie, ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ I have seen thousands of young people stand and applaud in respect and admiration those of their elders and their peers who have had the courage of their convictions – the courage to be their best selves despite the bleating of the crowd or the memo of the PR guru!
Perhaps you will find me at a political rally holding up a sign, “Just be YOUR BEST – Barrington!”