“Life is about using the whole box of crayons.” (RuPaul) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.
As young children we tend to use the whole box of crayons and we don’t worry all that much about staying within the lines either. We just experience life as it comes, without prejudices or pre-conceived notions. As we get older, “adults” around us start “explaining” things to us. They give us the rules that they say we should live by. They start taking away some of our crayons. As they work to make us “safer”, things can begin to get a bit duller. There are fewer crayon colors and they are less vibrant. As time goes on, and as we add more and more rules to our lives. Things can become more shades of gray than vibrant colors. For a few, things even lose the shades and everything becomes black and white.
I think that a part of what causes us to lose the ability to use and appreciate the whole box of crayons in our lives is our need to understand things and our fear of things that we do not understand. We meet people who are different from us. Some differences like the color of their skin are easy to understand; but then we encounter other things about them that might be different – how they dress and talk or maybe how they act. We don’t understand those differences and, out of that lack of understanding, there grows confusion and eventually fear.
The confusion that we experience when being around people who are different from us often springs from not understanding how we should react to the differences or even if you should react at all. The confusion quickly morphs into discomfort and that discomfort may eventually turn to fear or hate – all because the other person was coloring with different crayons than you are used to in your life. Interestingly enough, those same people when interviewed often say that being around you makes them uncomfortable too and many have fears about you.
For many there is a progression of retiring different crayons and moving slowly towards shades of gray or just black and white. That happens when they keep defining new rules for their lives; rules that restrict what they will do or with whom they will associate. They may throw away the crayons that have to do with people of certain races or ethnic backgrounds. Therefore they will never experience the vibrant colors of the cultures of those people and their own world will become a bit grayer. They may decide to throw away the crayons of people who look and talk like them, but who have a different lifestyle or perhaps just a difference of religion or even politics – the picture just got even grayer. Finally they decide that things really can be defined only as right or wrong by their standards; that there is no need for shades of gray; that everything can be colored as black and white.
Beware the people that you meet who are sure that everything is black or white, good or evil, right or wrong (at least as they define things). They have lost the ability to see and appreciate all of the colors in the box of crayons that life has to offer. They have thrown away all of their crayons except the two that define absolute dark and light. All too often the next step is that they embrace the black crayon in their lives and retreat into the darkness.
It is interesting that adult coloring books are a hot item right now and that there are even adult coloring parties being held in homes or bars. People are rediscovering the fun of using the whole box or crayons (or colored pencils). Hope fully that will become a metaphor for their lives and they will expand the box of crayons that define their life experiences. For it is out of the experiences that come from diversity that life comes alive in the vibrant colors of many cultures. There is more that those cultures have to offer than an occasional take-out food order or ethnic restaurant visit. There is art and music, literature and language, traditions and customs that all use different crayons to render life in new colors. So get out of your grey zone of comfort; break out the crayon box and use all of the colors. What you’ll discover is a beautiful rainbow of experiences and a more colorful and satisfying life.
What colors are you using from your crayon box?