One day last week I spent some time wandering through the Museum of Church History and Art. I enjoyed a collection of children's drawings, and then this one caught my eye:
It reminded me of the story that President Thomas S. Monson has told of a widow who wanted him to take her canary when she passed away. She wrote to him: "In the kitchen are my three precious canaries. Two of them are beautiful, yellow-gold in color and are perfectly marked. On their cages I have noted the names of friends to whom they are to be given. In the third cage is 'Billie.' He is my favorite. Billie looks a bit scrubby, and his yellow hue is marred by gray on his wings. Will you and your family make a home for him? He isn't the prettiest, but his song is the best."
Don't we all have imperfections, or a little gray on our wings? I certainly have a lot of gray on my wings.
"The world is filled with yellow canaries with gray on their wings. The pity is that so precious few of them have learned to sing. Perhaps the clear notes of proper example have not sounded in their ears or found lodgment in their hearts."
What we do about the gray on our wings makes all the difference in the world in our lives, as well as in the lives of those around us.
President Monson continues: "Can we not appreciate that our very business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves? To break our own records, to outstrip our yesterdays by our todays, to bear our trials more beautifully than we ever dreamed we could, to give as we have never given, to do our work with more force and a finer finish than ever—this is the true idea: to get ahead of ourselves."
When I heard about a high school dance company using an inaccurate and frightening stereotype in their dance routine, I felt even more strongly that we need to learn how to lessen the hurtful stigmas that wound so many, especially in the mental illness community. How best to do this? One idea is to look beyond the obvious differences and see the person, instead of the disorder. To appreciate the gray on the wings. To listen and learn from others. To give them the help and understanding they often so desperately need. To not look away from them in horror or disgust.
President Monson makes this conclusion: "The Master could be found mingling with the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the afflicted. He brought hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, and freedom to the captive. He taught of the better life to come—even eternal life. . . . We all have received the divine injunction: 'Follow thou me.' It guided Peter. It motivated Paul. It can determine our personal destiny. Can we make the decision to follow in righteousness and truth the Redeemer of the world? With his help, a rebellious boy can become an obedient man, a wayward girl can cast aside the old self and begin anew."
And when we put aside fears and misunderstandings about the trials other human beings are facing, we can begin to become the compassionate society that so many of us yearn for.