Our Common Trait: Our Differences

Alyssa - Lexington, Kentucky
Entered on December 11, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance
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A girl. Dyed crimson red hair sticking out in every direction. She is 23 years old, but you probably would not guess it. Thick red glasses propped on her nose accompanied by a silver hoop through her left nostril. And another on her lip. My sister. I believe it is important to be accepting of the girl with piercing between her eyebrows or the guy with tattoos from head to toe. Am I really any more “normal” than they are?

We live in a world full of billions of people. Different people – no two of us are exactly the same. We all have different hair color, skin color, personalities and even fingerprints. Short or tall, black or white, introverted or extroverted – with all this diversity in the world, it is inevitable that we will encounter someone entirely different from ourselves on a daily basis. I tend to observe and then classify people the moment I meet them: “Hmm, this guy seems pretty normal” or “Yeah, that girl was a little bit strange.” But who am I to establish who is “normal” and who is “different?”

Growing up with a sister diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome really made me feel “normal.” With a socially limiting disorder, my sister was definitely very “different.” So while I was out with my friends seeing movies, my sister was isolated in her room on the computer or playing videogames. While I would have friends spend the night at my house, my sister would spend the night curled up in bed with her cats.

I remember a time during my freshman year of high school when I received a comment from my sister that completely took me by surprise. I was prancing out the front door one morning on my way to school in my new blouse, jeans and shoes. I was wearing clothes only the “cool” people could wear. Before I get out the door, my sister stops me and my bad self, shifts her eyes from my hair down to my shiny shoes and says, “Your outfit is weird.” I was in shock. How could my totally abnormal sister tell me, the normal child, that I’m weird?

It is situations like these that answer the question: who is normal? No one. None of us. We are all weird, different, abnormal and strange. Through my experiences with my sister and other people that are extremely different from me, I have found that finding the good aspects of others’ differences beats judging others in a negative way.

We should be free to be whoever we want to be. I believe we should all be understanding of others. Understanding differences in other people makes us gain a greater understanding of ourselves. I believe we should be open to those who are different. Being open gives us the chance to learn and enjoy others. I believe we should befriend the weird girl in the corner. You never know – she could be your best friend tomorrow.