There was a small elementary school with desks, and boards, and colorful educational posters on the wall. At this school there were many young children of all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Each of them knew they were different however the difference didn’t matter—the children spent more time caring about what made them similar rather than what made them different. One boy, Guro, was the strongest of his class. His tablemate, Tobee, was his shy best friend. In their classroom two girls sat in front of them: Astra, and Akila. Astra was small and smart. Akila was Astra’s best friend. She was very tall; she was able to reach the books at the top of the bookshelf.
Every Monday their class would have an elective class period—some days they would work on art projects, or science experiments.
On this particular Monday, the teacher had a very special plan in mind. Everyone had a new machine on their desk. This machine worked with electricity. That morning in science their entire class learned all about electricity; they learned about how it worked, how it would give energy to different things – even people! Their teacher said that the nerves and the muscles in the body were connected and when the nerves sent a signal to the muscle it was sending a form of electricity. Then they learned how electricity could be used to help people walk or contract their muscles to be able to grab onto cups. At every desk there was a big kid from the college that was showing them how they could use their machine. Step by step the teacher told them all the different instructions they had to follow so their experiment could be successful. First, they needed to select the correct amount of electrical output on the machine: there were so many different types on Guro and Tobee’s machine. There were swirly waves, and straight lines, and sometimes even X’s -- all these showed the different outputs of electricity their machines had.
The teacher said out loud that they needed to use the asymmetrical wave. “What does that even mean?” Guro inquired to himself. He rose his hand in the air and asked his teacher what that meant.
She explained, “Remember when we talked about how sometimes the amount of electricity can be equal or different -- the asymmetrical wave means you are giving a smaller amount of electricity to your partner. The symmetrical one means that on the positive and the negative side they are going to be equal-- which makes the wave even larger."
This was an unsuccessful class, the boys thought, they were lost at the very first question. The teacher continued explaining the amount of intensity that they needed, and the amount of time that they had to leave the electricity on the partner. Everything was getting really hard to understand and they couldn’t remember everything that the teacher had talked about in science. To top it all off their college student helper wasn’t telling them how to do anything, all he did was sit on the stool next to them on his phone and poke the girl that was helping Astra and Akila.
“Pssst, Astra,” whispered Guro. “Can you help us?” asked Tobee.
“I don’t think I can. I’m still a little bit confused,” she stated while giving her college helper a poke, requesting her attention.
The teacher walked all around the room answering the questions the students had. Everyone seemed to be understanding the experiment. Some were walking around using the electricity to fire the muscles in the legs and others were getting their hands to move up and down without even controlling them, but Guro, Tobee, Astra, and Akila were sitting at their tables punching in numbers and helplessly confused. As the teacher walked by Astra’s table she quickly rose her hand and called out, “Teacher we need help! In order to get the hand to move like them, we have to use the symmetrical wave?”
“Yes, you are correct.”
“Ok, Akila I think we can do this,” she responded.
Guro’s hand quickly shot up as straight as an arrow, “Wait, teacher, I thought you said we could use the asymmetrical one? That’s the one we’ve been using.”
“Yes you are correct,” the teacher exclaimed with a small smile on her face.
“Then why are Astra and Akila using the symmetrical one?”
“Well all the machines are different; even though everyone can use their machine to give electricity to their muscles some machines don’t have the asymmetrical wave likes yours and they have to accommodate and make theirs work.” As the teacher spoke, Akila ’s hand was slowly moving up towards and the girls laughed at how the machine was controlling it.
The boys turned towards their machine with puzzled faces. Tobee was the first to speak “ We thought everyone had the same machine.”
Guro added, "Yeah we didn’t know that there were different ones, we thought ours was the worst one.”
“Wow boys, I think we learned a very big lesson about the way that some people live.”
“What do you mean?” the boys asked.
“Well, you thought that everyone was the same, that everyone had the same machine that you did and that your advantages and disadvantages were the same right? But then when the girls asked the question about the wave you saw that wasn’t the case, you had an advantage over them-- your experiment was actually easier than the girl’s experiment because they had a different machine. That’s the way that some people are living their lives and we have no idea. We believe that everyone has the same chance to go to school, or the same grocery store to get food, but the reality is that there are some people that have a larger advantage and that makes life for them easier than those that have to find creative and different ways to live their life.”
“Does this make us bad?” the boys asked
“No not at all- don’t feel bad that you have a different machine than the girls, just share your advantage with them. Do you have any other questions?”
Did you catch it? In these small moments in life, we learn some of our largest lessons. Take the time to listen to people’s stories. To look around you and appreciate that which you have. For those that don’t have the same advantages as you, listen—listen to the stories they have to share.
Chantal Williams recently graduated from Andrews University as a doctor of physical therapy, and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.