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This is the bedtime story I am telling the kids tonight. Its the story of from Robert Fulghum’s book, “UH, OH.” I recently read it today in Michael Yaconelli’s book “Messy Spirituality.” This story shows that its not just ok to be a misfit, that it is an advantage. A different song is a more interesting song. Here it goes:

An elementary class was putting on the play Cinderella. The best parts get passed out first, of course, and upon asking who wanted to play Cinderella and the handsome prince, the hand of every girl and boy shot up.

‘Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!’

Soon, the students realized only two people could have the choicest parts, so many of the requests quickly changed to: ‘Can I be the ugly stepsister?’ and ‘Can I play the mean stepmother?’ Being the wonderful diplomat she was, the teacher soon navigated thru the selections until everyone had a part. Except for Norman.

Norman was a quiet young man who didn’t say much in class. It wasn’t that he was super-shy or bashful; he just didn’t like talking as much as everyone else. Norman thought talking where nothing was really said was a waste of time, so he talked only when he really had something to say. Norman had a mind of his own and was completely comfortable just being himself.

Knowing all the parts were taken, the teacher approached Norman and asked: ‘Norman, I’m afraid all the big parts are taken. Is there a part you’re interested in?’

‘I’d like to be the pig,’ said Norman.

‘The pig?’ said the teacher. ‘But I’m afraid there is no pig in Cinderella.’

‘There is now,’ said Norman.

Norman designed his own costume – a paper cup for a nose and pink long underwear with a pipe cleaner for a tail. Norman’s pig followed Cinderella around everywhere on stage and became a mirror for the main character. If Cinderella was happy, so was the pig. If she was sad, so was the pig. Afraid, afraid. Worried, worried. One look at Norman and you knew the emotion of the moment. At the end of the play when the handsome prince placed the glass slipper on Cinderella and they walked happily offstage arm in arm, Norman went wild with joy, dancing around on his hind legs and barking with incredible enthusiasm. In rehearsal, the teacher had tried to explain to Norman that pigs don’t bark. But, as she expected, Norman calmly explained that this pig barked.

The presentation was a smashing success – and really, surprising to no one – guess who received the standing ovation? Norman, the barking pig – who was, after all, the real Cinderella story.

What I love about that story is Norman’s persistence, impervious to intimidation – Norman refused to believe he had no place.

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