Another week. Another obscure Dr. Seuss story. This time the story of the Pale Green Pants. Of note, an internet search to find more about this story revealed that these pants have sort of a cult following. Who knew?
The story goes something like this: A young boy goes walking late at night and runs into a pair of pale green pants. The pants can run.
Understandably the boy is completely and totally freaked out. He runs straight home to safety.
Uninhabited pants, green or any other color, are not supposed to run.
And yet, there they are. Running. Biking. Colliding with the boy.
The boy has never seen pants like this.
He escapes when he can—or hides.
And then one day he can’t avoid the pants any longer.
He yells for help. He screams, he shrieks, he howls, he yowls, he cries, “Oh, save me from these pale green pants with nobody inside!”
And the most amazing thing happens. The pale green pants, these strange unfamiliar pants begin to cry.
It seems the pale green pants are actually afraid of the little boy.
The boy says, “I began to see that I was just as strange to them as they were strange to me.”
And that is a profound statement.
The story reminds me of something that happened in one of my English classes last week.
I asked my students to read an article about names published in Wired Science. The author discussed a Yale study which suggested that people with easy to pronounce names are more popular and even make more money than people with difficult to pronounce names.
My students were mortified.
That’s not fair, they protested.
That can’t be right.
And yet, the more we discussed it, the more we admitted that the study might be at least partially right. Most easy to pronounce names are familiar, and most difficult to pronounce names are unfamiliar. And we like things that are familiar to us. And that’s not fair at all.
The principle behind this finding at least partly explains why we tend to hang out with people who are like us.
And people who aren’t like us? We’re often a little cautious about them.
And they are cautious about us.
When you come down to it, most of us are a little strange. It’s a wonder we ever make friends with anyone. And yet we must. Life alone is lonely.
We can respond to the fear by running and hiding and crying like the boy.
Or we can recognize that even when people seem strange, they are a lot like us.
I’ve seen this in life groups.
I’ve seen this as I’ve traveled around the United States.
I’ve seen this as I’ve visited other countries.
Like the pale green pants, some things—and some people—seem very strange.
But if we slow down and say hi, the strangeness faces away.