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Reflection: The Hats We Wear

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In January, I tend to daydream about the summer.

I celebrate my Vermont roots, Massachusetts schooling, and New York City life. I was born in snow and shaped in the shivery. But I have not embraced the cold, so much as survived it. My friends were avid skiers, snowboarders, skaters, and hockey players.

I was more of a “Go-inside-and-cross-off-calendar-days-till-April-er”. And I could definitely have made varsity.

Anyway, Lori surprised me with a trip to Amelia Island in Florida at the end of August. We celebrated my birthday. We took some time to breathe. I began writing these reflections. It was a time of renewal in spirit, soul, and body.

One night, we went out to a restaurant we had heard about. The driver was a phenomenal tour guide, one of those human encyclopedias we sometimes have the privilege to stumble upon. He was a lifelong resident of the island, and he just shared fascinating information with us for 20 minutes going, and 20 minutes returning.

And when we got back, we couldn’t recall his name.

And the porter said: “Did he have a hat? That’s Carl.”

And to me that was magic.

Now, for the sake of context, the porter knew the cab company. It was a father/son operation. And I’m guessing one differentiating feature between them was Carl’s propensity for headwear.

But for just a second, I liked to imagine that there was only one guy on the island who wore hats. So everybody just knew, the guy with the hat was Carl.

Standing out is a powerful thing.

It’s not always comfortable. As social creatures, we have an inherent need to belong. So we often look to see how we can blend in. We may feel self-conscious. We may not like attention. We may worry about looking stupid.

At the same time, we have an inherent need for uniqueness. And we may satisfy this need by differentiating ourselves in one way or another, or by joining a group that is sufficiently oppositional to our origins that we can consider ourselves rebels, even if everyone in the group is rebelling in the exact same way.

Your critics may call you a poser, but in one way or another, at one time or another, we all are. Part of life is taking poses to see what feels comfortable. And if we think we’ve never done this, it probably means we learned our poses before we were paying attention. We try on costumes to see if they fit us. And then we may invest time in learning postures and language, rules and regulations, to be a part of the clubs we join.

Sometimes, though, we need to make peace with our uniqueness.

I always encourage people to pay attention to the “anointing of one.”

Certainly, we do well to be team players. There is value in embracing community. And when we enter a place, we should honor the culture that is there.

Sometimes, though, we bend over backwards to fit in when we have been made and positioned to stand out.

If you are the only girl in a family with ten boys, you may assimilate, but you will probably stand out.

If you are a foot taller than everyone in your friend group, you may wear the same clothes, but you will stand out.

If you are the lone representative of your culture in your workplace, you may code switch, and you may assimilate, but you will stand out.

And that’s ok.

Sometimes it’s even wondrous.

In many seasons, we will be the only somebody in a group of somebodies.

It will come with unique burdens – the world won’t know your struggle.

And it will carry unique blessings – the world will not share your strengths.

Today, I pray you would wear your hat without fear.

I pray your endurance for the struggle.

I pray your eyes would open to the strengths you carry.

I pray you would not curse the cold so much as let it light a fire within you.

God is not finished with you, which means both that you are not abandoned, and you have not arrived.

You are who you are, and where you are for a reason.

And that may be wonder enough.

(Photo Credit: Mattheus Bertelli)

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