Different – 20th November 2021

Every one different, yet every one beautiful – especially when we see them together! (Image by Tom Gordon, from St Columba’s Bay, Iona.)

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions,

perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Let him step to the music which he hears,

however measured or far away.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, ‘Conclusion’


I was struck by a comment from a Children in Need documentary, centred on BBC presenter Matt Baker’s “Rickshaw Challenge”. The year’s challenge took a pedal-powered rickshaw all over the country, to publicise BBC TV’s annual Children in Need appeal, highlight the charity’s projects, involve some of the young people and, of course, raise lots of money. Since the first Rickshaw Challenge in 2011 it’s raised over £25 million.

One of this year’s participants was living with physical disabilities – at least, that’s how I saw it. But not her! “I’m not disabled,” she said. “I’m just differently-abled,” and told us of the full life she lived, the sports she did and the lessons she could share. And  with great stoicism, in the rain, she finished her leg of the Rickshaw Challenge in great style. Differently-abled. Different, but able. That had an impact on me.

It brought to mind an incident from High School. When “my year” got back after the summer break, there was the inevitable sharing of where holidays had taken us. Before mobile phones and digital photography, there was the invariable exchanging of photographs, of people and places, home-life and travels, events and random happenings. Until Ian appeared and shared his bulging album of photographs – of cows! Cows were Ian’s passion. Friesians, Aberdeen Angus, Belted Galloways, Highland Cattle, Ayrshires, Herefords. There wasn’t a breed he hadn’t photographed. And there was nothing Ian didn’t know about cows. Not one of us understood that – or bothered to try! Football, girls, magazines and TV were our stock-in-trade. Cows? Weird! Ian? Just different.  

How quick we are to label people who don’t conform to our expectations, or don’t seem to “fit in”, who hear Thoreau’s “different drummer”. But do they have to keep pace with us? Shouldn’t they keep step to the music they hear, though the beat may not be ours?

And Ian? He became a successful dairy farmer. So, what did we understand about being different?


A prayer for today

I am unique, different from everyone else, and still loved – thank God! Amen


An original reflection by © Tom Gordon     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s