Tuesday, June 11, 2013

People Are Strange

I was a stranger and ye took me in: Matthew 25:35

I just listened to Tiny Tim do "People Are Strange". Call me old fashioned and sentimental, but I love it. Not only is the music stirring, but the vocal range of Tim is amazing.

There is a message there. Of course, Tiny was about as strange as they come, and unappreciated, until he died of a heart attack. So what about the message of the song? It is how ominous and strange people seem when you are alone and rejected. It as though they, not you are the strange ones.

I used to sit at a big desk in study hall. I was allowed to sit there so I had access to an ancient set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. It was so old that it was illustrated with wood cuts. I loved them. They fit my own mood of strangeness--a boy out of time. I used to read them instead of doing my homework. I was fascinated with such subjects as making sodium metal and ballooning.

In spite of my neglecting my home work I managed to flunk high school. Huh? Later I weaseled my way into college and got a degree.

But while I was there in the study hall I was given the task of writing permission slips for people who temporarily needed to leave. I remember a shy black girl who came to my desk. Before she spoke I wrote her name on the slip. This was at a time when people did not cross the racial barrier and even speak to one another. She was amazed that I knew her name. She asked how I knew of her. That was easy. I had heard her and her friends talk many times and I listened.

Another person I remembered was a young guy who no one spoke to. He looked a little rough, probably a hood, people thought--if they thought of him at all. I was looking at a map as he approached my desk. He very quietly asked if I liked maps. "I collect them," he told me. Some hood! He should have had his hood license torn to shreds. He was just a guy who didn't fit in, like me, only I was proud of it.

My father was strictly Old World. The authorities were always right and not to be questioned. My mother was just the opposite. She voted for Norman Thomas, the socialist. When she had to go to a hospital, she listed her religion as "Jehovah's Witness", though she was not one. All she knew was that the status quo people were wrong. I took after her.

At this time, near the end of my life, I still feel for the "stranger in a strange land". The strange people are those who conform without thinking. Turn up the music Tim, I'm with you all the way.

Listen to Tiny Tim's rendition of "People Are Strange" here.

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