Monday, June 20, 2011

Canaries with Grey on Their Wings

Yesterday at church, Bishop G. gave a talk in Sacrament meeting about us students in the ward.  He centered his awesome talk about our potential to become amazing mortals and celestial immortals.  I liked a story he shared that was originally told by President Monson.  It can be found here.

To sum up the object lesson, a childless widow in his ward dies and she bequeaths her pet canaries to her friends.  Two are of a flawless yellow, and one is yellow, but marred with grey wings.  As you'd expect from an object lesson, the uglier fellow is the better singer, proving, yet again, that external appearance can bely true beauty.

I appreciate that message and take it very seriously, for a few reasons.  One, I am aware of how shallow I am.  In general, you've got to be pretty good looking for me to be attracted to you.  I hope I draw the line there in that I'll still respect you and appreciate your positive qualities, no matter what you look like, but still, I want to become less concerned with physical appearance.

Two, it humbles me a little as well.  I'm not the most attractive person in the world, but I'm a good lookin' fella with a few great physical characteristics.  I think that sometimes I try too hard to dress well and be well-groomed, etc.  I think when I do that, my focus is placed on magnifying my appearance, rather than improving my negative qualities and sharing my positive qualities.

One of my favorite lines in the talk reads thus:

The world is filled with yellow canaries with grey on their wings.  The pity is that so precious few of them have learned to sing.  Some are young people who don't know who they are, what they can be, or even want to be; all they want is to be somebody.  Others are stooped with age, burdened with care, or filled with doubt- living lives far below the level of their capabilities.

Without being too self-deprecating, I wonder how many times I've given someone a burden of care or filled them with doubt.  The thought was enough to give me pause and make me evaluate some of the relationships in my life.  Have I given someone reason to doubt their ability to sing, just because they had grey wings?  I certainly hope not.

A pop-culture reference that falls to mind is Susan Boyle.  In her initial TV appearance, audience members and judges alike scoffed at her when she expressed her desire to be a professional singer.  Perhaps it was her homely appearance, her somewhat buxom demeanor, or her scatterbrained responses to the judges' questions, but people around her visibly sneered.  Right up until she opened her mouth with the first notes of her song.  

Countless scholastic papers and informal editorials have been written about the nature of those around her who saw no beauty in her and therefore valued her less until she started singing.  And still more has been said of her newfound value to society because she can sing, which begs the question: Did she not mean something before we knew of her abilities and talents?  Is she not more than the sum of her homeliness and talent?

Another line from President Monson's story, given after expounding the Savior's choice in apostles and the nature of his disciples:

The Redeemer chose imperfect people to teach the way to perfection.  He did so then.  He does so now--even yellow canaries with grey on their wings.  He calls you and me to serve him here below.  Our commitment must be total.  And in our struggle, should we stumble, let us plead, "Lead us, O lead us, great molder of men, out of darkness to strive once again."

Within each of us is the potential for perfection.  Paul was an ardent persecutor of Christ's church initially, and then became one of the most oft-quoted Christian apostles and theologians of all time.  Peter and Andrew were fishermen, Simon was a pundit, and Matthew was a tax man.  None of these men were of any desirable social status and had little positive influence on the lives of others, and yet they were chosen by Christ himself to be the messengers of peace and bearers of the truth.  Even Christ himself was of little natural beauty that we should desire (see Isaiah 53:2).

I suppose I don't have much left to say.  Just some thoughts I've been chewing on for the last day or so.

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