Thursday, May 26, 2011

Being Normal Matters Far Less Than Being Courageous

Those of us tapped by the entrepreneurial spirit have a series of challenges facing us. Not the least of these is how to finance the dream project, the company, the idea. Kickstarter does everyone a service providing not only initial investment opportunities (thanks to the contributions of people around the world) as well as access to a series of entrepreneurs' creativity and invention.

Ben Bisbee is such an innovator.

His book, The Underground Flower, is smartly written by Ben and beautifully illustrated by artist Carolyn Hayes. And while it appears to be a book for children, and is titled that way, this book is brought to life by the reader, regardless of age whether read aloud or visually.

The Underground Flower tells the story of a little girl who planted a flower that, let's just say, wouldn't win any horticultural prizes. It's shaped differently. Its roots grow above soil. And underground, a gopher, a worm, an ant, and a centipede behave as gossipy, nosy creatures. They attempt to justify the flower's existence and rationalize it. Because this is their domain.

In the grasses above, things are no better for this unique flower, as the colorful blooms are afraid and suspicious of and confused by it. The flower is not welcomed into either of these earthen communities.

Planted by a wise child (the flower's only friend and supporter), there is no love shown by this young gardener's mother. A protective parent, to be sure, the mother wants to weed the flower and clear space in the yard. The flower is different and looks nothing like the plants known to brighten a room and be worthy of bridal bouquets. The little girl knows that even though this flower looks different, it is worthy of her care and attention.

Ben's inspiration for this important story of community, acceptance, love, and the damage of exclusion stems from his own life. Growing up with the challenges of a young person, and those were bolstered by hyperactivity, poverty, and being gay, Ben never felt accepted or embraced by people surrounding him. We can all empathize with that.

The real challenge emerges when how we express ourselves - for whatever reason - doesn't communicate who we are and what we are. We are all flowers. Regardless of texture, leaf shape, color, scent and height, we may have different depictions. And we are flowers. Full stop.

No one wants to be average or labeled as anything other than who he/she is. "Normal" is nothing bad, to be sure. And the little girl who planted the underground flower showed courage, which is so much more important.

Should you believe in what Ben's book is providing - underscored by humor, quirk, and sweetness - contribute to his Kickstarter project.

With Memorial Day happening soon, this beautiful week is chance to be inspired by people who showed courage and people who are doing that today. 

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