In the past week I’ve heard a couple stories about kids being different. One student was asked to not bring his My Little Pony things to school because he was being bullied so much. Another student tried to commit suicide because he was bullied for liking My Little Pony. Both situations are sad. No one should be pushed to trying to commit suicide for being themselves. A school should be a safe place and not punish a child for being bullied, but should discipline those who bully.

I work with special needs kids that are often looked at funny because they are not normal. You can see it in the eyes of people around them. Not all, but enough people still don’t get it that they can’t help rocking or making sounds that are different than you and me or what we call the general public.

This week, one of my students painted my fingernails. My left hand red and the right yellow. This is not the first time I’ve had my nails painted and probably not the last. I don’t see a big deal with painted fingernails on a guy, especially when the student gets so much fun out of doing it. Yes, I do get funny looks from some people, mostly guys, but some people think it’s great. They even go on with stories of when they painted another person’s fingernails.

Still it is not accepted as the norm or even OK by some. But why is it looked down on? Is it because it’s not “manly”? Probably that is the reason. Men have to be a certain way and women have to be a certain way. Society puts us all in a box and if you want to be out of the box, you are bullied until you come back to your box.

I’m not one for boxes. I have never been that way. Secretly and quietly I’ve always pushed against the norm. I like to cook and I cry at movies. My wife doesn’t do either. I have worn more make up in my life than my wife has (since the only time she wore it was for our wedding). I wore a dress at my bachelor party. Is it that I have no pride or that I just like being me? It’s the latter.

Yes, I get made fun of sometimes and that’s too bad. People should learn to encourage instead of criticize. What would this world be if we could learn to accept differences instead of bullying those who are different? What if everyone on your favorite football team was six foot 4 and 300 lbs? Not too many wide receivers there. No cornerbacks either. In sports we want everyone to be different so that they can fulfill the different positions. In fact, it is those with extra special “different” skills that we marvel at. The coaches that think out of the box are the hall of fame coaches.

In music and business we love those who are innovators. If we didn’t have people who were and are innovators we’d still be walking everywhere and having our own big farms so we could live. We love it when they can do things for us, but when we don’t think it helps us, we criticize.

The more that we encourage different ways of thinking and being, the more chance we have of creating greater scientists than Einstein or musicians than Beethoven or leaders than Gandhi. But most of all we will create people that love themselves and love others, so that we can create a better world and neighborhoods. Imagine towns where people care about their neighbors no matter what their differences are. We could cut down on a lot of unneeded suicides and bullying and make this world a better place – one encouraging moment at a time.

So if nothing else, I hope that you will allow yourself to be a little different and that you will accept others who are different.