Anonymous Distributor

A kindergarten teacher handed out a coloring sheet and gave what she considered to be simple instructions: Color the duck yellow and the duck’s umbrella green.

But when little Betsy turned in her paper, the teacher asked, “Didn’t you understand the directions, Betsy? You colored the duck red and her umbrella blue. How often have you seen a red duck?”

Betsy didn’t miss a beat. “About as often as I’ve seen a duck carrying an umbrella,” she replied.

Is Betsy a young rebel? Hasn’t she learned her colors? Should her parents be called for a parent-teacher conference?

Well, Betsy may not be the model student, but she represents a stellar thinker. Pretty bright for a 5-year-old. I hope the teacher had a sense of humor, as well as a sense of wonder. I hope there was a glimmer of recognition that Betsy might become the next Pablo Picasso or Bill Gates.

I am not advocating disobedience or disrespect. I am encouraging expanding your mind to find new and better ways to address issues and solve problems.

Conformity is absolutely necessary sometimes. For example, following traffic laws demands conformity or chaos reigns. Paying taxes requires conformity, and if you don’t believe me, ask anyone whose creative deductions have resulted in substantial penalties — or prison. And when your mother tells you to shape up, I would recommend conforming.

But conformity will not provide a creative solution to a problem. That usually calls for a different approach from what has been tried before, or a variation on the theme. Free thinkers are often dismissed as goofballs — until their ideas become smashing successes.


From David G. Stratman’s book We Can Change the World, comes his true and very moving story about a Christmas day near the beginning of World War I, almost 100 years ago:

“It was December 25, 1914, only 5 months into World War I. German, British and French soldiers, already sick and tired of the senseless killing, disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with ‘the enemy’ along two-thirds of the Western Front (a crime punishable by death in times of war). German troops held Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, ‘Merry Christmas.’

“‘You no shoot, we no shoot.’ Thousands of troops streamed across a no-man’s land strewn with rotting corpses. They sang Christmas carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, shared rations, played football, and even roasted some pigs. Soldiers embraced men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each other if the top brass forced them to fire their weapons, and to aim high.

“A shudder ran through the high command on either side. Here was disaster in the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous peacemaking to be treasonous and subject to court martial. By March 1915, the fraternization movement had been eradicated, and the killing machine put back in full operation. By the time of the armistice in 1918, 15 million would be slaughtered.

“Not many people have heard the story of the Christmas Truce. On Christmas Day 1988, a story in The Boston Globe mentioned that a local FM radio host played ‘Christmas in the Trenches,’ a ballad about the Christmas Truce, several times and was startled by the effect. The song became the most-requested recording during the holidays in Boston on several FM stations. ‘Even more startling than the number of requests I get is the reaction to the ballad afterward by callers who hadn’t heard it before,’ said the radio host. ‘They telephone me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking, What the hell did I just hear?’

“You can probably guess why the callers were in tears. The Christmas Truce story goes against most of what we have been taught about people. It gives us a glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, ‘This really happened once.’ It reminds us of those thoughts we keep hidden away, out of range of the TV and newspaper stories that tell us how trivial and mean human life is. It is like hearing that our deepest wishes really are true: the world really could be different.”


Have a wonderful holiday season! Celebrate with gratefulness for all that is good in our lives and families, our businesses, and our country. We have so much to be thankful for.


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