Sunday, October 5, 2014

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out noun:  a person who differs from the other members of a group.

I only noticed it recently, looking out our second-floor bedroom window as I do first thing every morning. I enjoy looking out, checking on the current weather, the temperature, the subtle change of seasons reflected in the surrounding vegetation. That morning, well beyond what we consider summer, it stood out like a bright pink sore thumb. A lone kousa dogwood bloom, at the tiptop of a delicate branch, blooming away like it was the most natural thing in the world - never mind that it was surrounded by leaves gradually turning color and bright red fruits poking straight up as they do. What!? Certainly this bloom was terribly confused...
We planted this tree some years ago after seeking one that would provide blooms, fall color, something to attract birds, and not grow too tall. It has met all of our expectations and more, especially the bright pink blooms that begin appearing in late spring/early summer and last a good month or more. But this is the first time it has ever had a bloom in the fall, at least that we have ever noticed.

Weather-wise, it has been an unusual year many places so that might account for this anomaly somewhat. There was one other similar incident this year when our magnolia bloomed a second time in late summer. I don't know for sure, but I assumed the blooming was in response to a rather severe pruning I had given it. But now with this single dogwood bloom, I have to wonder.

As we all know, there are always exceptions to any rule, and nature is full of anomalies. Indeed, there are times we each can feel like the odd man out. From the time we are small, most of us are told that we don't need to always follow the crowd; that we should think for ourselves and become our own person is often drilled into our heads. We all learn, however, that going against the flow can be a difficult and challenging route. Young children want to be liked and accepted; going against the majority can result in uncomfortable comments and behaviors towards those who are different. Many just find it easier to give in and go along. For teens, it's all about fitting in and finding out who they are. A mean-spirited dig or being shunned can feel like the ultimate rejection. Young adults are still trying to find their niche and the work of finding their adult role in life can seem overwhelming at times. Often, they last thing they want is to stick out as being very different - even the "different" ones hang out together. This insecurity with not falling in line is not something we necessarily out-grow as adults, either. Politicians and businesses pander to the masses for a very good reason - more often than not, it works.
As I consider this lone dogwood bloom, still blushing rosily against the backdrop of dark trees, I see what an extraordinary statement it makes. It attracts my attention because it is different, standing alone when the others have all gone. It boldly takes a stand against the season and serves a purpose of providing food for the late-season insects. Are there risks for this late-bloomer that stands alone? Yes, I suppose there are, but in the greater scheme of things I believe it is well worth it - for each of us.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.   - Romans 12:2

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