Almost everyone in America wants to be an individual: the only, the best, the greatest, and so on. And being someone unique: someone that does not need to copy anyone else, that learns and discovers things in her own way, that sees things that only he can see, is very precious. But at the same time, everyone is a part of something else: your family, your town or city, your state, your nation, or the friends you have. If everyone just does what he or she wants all the time, it’s like a bunch of ping-pong balls bouncing around on a vibrating table: everything is bumping into everything else, and pretty soon there’s nothing but chaos, nothing but a mess.
But if the ping-pong balls each had a different color: some greenish-blue, some yellow-green, pale yellow or dark orange or any other color, then they could be put on the table and make beautiful patterns. Sure, the ping-pong balls would have to stay put in order to be part of the pattern: they couldn’t jump from one end of the table just because they felt like it, nor could they shove all the other ping-pong balls aside because they wanted the center space: that would destroy the pattern. But because each ping-pong ball’s color was unique, each would still be individual. And because each one agreed to be part of a pattern, they could make something beautiful by being together.
So the next time you are asked to do something in a group, just remember: if you have worked out your own individual color, you will help the group by being yourself. And if the group asks you to become a part of it, you don’t need to lose your individuality.
Almost everyone is creative, even some of you who think you can’t create a thing. Being creative doesn’t just mean painting a picture, composing music or poetry, or even inventing a computer game: it means making something that wasn’t there before with your own hands and mind. Can you cook, making something from its constituent parts and come up with something new, even though it might be as simple as a ham sandwich? Then you have been creative. Can you arrange things in your room beautifully, balancing the colors and shapes of things, or arranging your collections elegantly? Then you have been creative. Have you ever built a snow fort, a bird house, a diorama in a shoe box, or even a stack of something you could knock down later? Then you have been creative. When you work on an school assignment, do you take care with it, making sure everything is spelled correctly, that the paragraphs look nice, and all the footnotes are thoroughly researched? Then you have been creative.
When you look for creativity in your self and others you will find it everywhere! Sanding the sides of an old boat and making it beautiful again is creative; so is watching a movie and thinking about how you might have done it differently. Creativity is changing things so they become more beautiful and elegant; creativity also makes things stronger and able to work better. Creativity is precious, and it can be as individual as you are. Enjoy it!
Someone defined integrity as: “When you do what is right even when someone isn’t looking,” and that is a very good definition. There used to be a spiritual master tho asked each of his students, “I want you to take one of these chickens, and take it to a place where no one can see, and strangle it so we can have it for supper.” And, yes, several of the students came back pretty quickly, carrying their dead chickens. But two of the disciples did not come back for a very long time, When the first one came back after only a few hours, he still had his life chicken. The mater asked, “Why didn’t kill the chicken?” and hi student answered, “Well, no matter what I tried, the chicken saw me.” The last student who came in the latest, also came in with a live chicken. When asked why she didn’t kill the chicken, she replied, “Well, perhaps I could shut my eyes and not see what I had done, but I would always know that I had done it.”
Integrity is like that. You will always know what you have done, even though you might want to close your eyes to it.